Storied Salvation: Assurance

Salvation According to Paul: Assurance

“Paul would certainly see 'salvation' as secured through 'belief in the Lord Jesus', however much such belief would have to be spelled out in any particular case.”[1]

The book of Jude with its unique content and non-canonical citations contains a noteworthy warning to its readership:

“Now I desire to remind you, though you know all things once for all, that the Lord, after saving a people out of the land of Egypt, subsequently destroyed those who did not believe” Jud 1:5.

The idea that belief and obedience are mutually exclusive or autonomous is not found in the OT or apostolic tradition. God does indeed secure his people, but not without their consent or cooperation. Security and safety are found in continual obedience to God; it’s his word not ours. Once the later idea that grace and obedience are separate from each other is removed – one being accomplished by God’s fiat alone and the other optional by us – Jude’s warning is perfectly appropriate. “Those who did not believe” are not those who wandered into heresy,[2] but rather those who after participating in God’s renewing and restoration power refused to participate and act in the obedience required to be part of that kingdom. This is not a matter of maintaining proper theology, but rather a failure to put into action God’s commands. There are numerous examples of faith as obedience, where those who were once obedient but did not continue on that path were subsequently judged by God.
The psalmist wrote:

“The salvation of the righteous is from the LORD; He is their strength in time of trouble. The LORD helps them and delivers them; He delivers them from the wicked and saves them, Because they take refuge in Him” Ps 37:39-40.

There is no question that Yahweh is the source, character, nature, substance, and reality of salvation. It depends on his faithfulness, consistency and reliability, not our wavering attempts. Does this then describe our eternal security; are we eternally secure? I believe that is the wrong question to ask. A better question is, “Who are the righteous,” which the passage describes? This passage (and others like it) is about the righteous, a topic about which the OT (especially the Psalms) has a lot to say. Jesus came teaching Israel what the actions of a righteous (kingdom citizen) look like. God himself is our guarantee, as Paul said, “by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption” Eph 4:30.[3]

Within the idiomatic way biblical language works, salvation can be spoken of as an accomplished action, although in modern ways of reckoning it causes substantial confusion regarding that from which we are being “saved.”

The proof of spiritual transformation in the Gospels is the confirmation of the people and the spirit of God. There is a sense in which the principle, first taught in the OT, and taught also by Jesus with the witness of at least two, is appropriate. It’s not a matter of self-confirming statements, but rather community affirmation. Obedience is obvious.

“The sorrow that is according to the will of God produces a repentance without regret, leading to salvation, but the sorrow of the world produces death” 2 Cor 7:10.

The declaration by many dedicated men of God should ring in our ear; hineni, “here I am,” your servant waits for your instruction. Obedience is the best gauge in the present regarding one’s salvation being a reality in the future.

“The righteous dead still await the promised resurrection, 'God' has singled out Jesus, bestowing on him, uniquely, resurrected existence and making him thereby the exemplar of what believers can hope for and the assurance that their hope in 'God's' readiness and power to raise the dead is not in vain (esp. 1 Cor 15:20-58; Heb 2:5-18; 1 John 3:1-3). Resurrection, thus, is presented as the essential means by which ‘God’ will demonstrate faithfulness to believers, and their hoped-for salvation/vindication is directly patterned after what 'God' did in/for Jesus. . . . So, 'God' in the NT is emphatically known as the deity who raised Jesus from the dead and exalted him to glory, which justifies and even demands now that Jesus be proclaimed as 'Lord' (e.g., Phil 2:9-11). But God's resurrection of Jesus also serves to signal incomparably this God's great power and purpose, which are to eventuate in a personal/bodily glorification of believers that is patterned after that given to Jesus.”[4]

[1] J. D. G. Dunn, Beginning from Jerusalem, Christianity in the Making, vol. 2 (Erdmans, 2008), 674.
[2] 1 Tim 4:16.
[3] Eze 9:4; Eph 1:13-4; 4:30; 2 Cor 1:21-2; 5:5; 2 Tim 2:19; Rev 7:3; 9:4.
[4] L. W. Hurtado, God in New Testament Theology (Abingdon Press, 2010), 42.

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