School of Life Foundations: Exploring the Foursquare Gospel (Fa" and Winter) Christ in Culture: Connecting Jesus to Life

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1 School of Life Foundations: Exploring the Foursquare Gospel (Fa" and Winter) Christ in Culture: Connecting Jesus to Life (Spring) Pastor James Walton New Life Foursquare Church Canby, Oregon

2 4 How Jesus Christ Saves Foursquare proudly proclaims that Jesus Christ is Savior. Having looked at the issues surrounding the scope of this salvation, we turn our attention to three questions: What does He saves us from? How does He save? Why does He save? [The very important question of What God has Saved us To will be considered separately, in chapter 6.] Of course, the goal of this exercise is to point to Jesus as the only Savior worthy of allegiance and worship, and to prompt us to love Him even more. What Does He Save us From? In order to understand the good news, we need to begin with the bad news. Scripture is clear as to the state of the human condition outside of Christ. Let s start towards the beginning: Humanity in the Old Testament Humanity is described as bearing the image of God and being very good (Gen 1:26-31). In this state of shalom (Hebrew for perfect peace and relational harmony), we get the impression that God and humanity were friends - they went on walks together through the Garden, before the weather got too hot (Gen 3:8-9). Adam and Eve interact with God face-to-face, and physical death is not a part of the equation. This is humanity as God intended it to be. Then, as we discussed in the opening chapter, the Fall occurs. Prompted by the deceiving serpent and subject to her 1

3 desire to become like God, Eve takes of the forbidden fruit (the only such fruit in the whole Garden!) and shares it with her passive husband, Adam. The result is disastrous: God comes and judges His creation for their rebellion and disobedience, resulting in a curse upon the man, the woman, and the created order. Adam and Eve were driven from the Garden and prevented re-entrance. Separation from God (ie: death) resulted (Genesis 4-11, especially chapter 5). The far-reaching affects of the entrance of sin into the human experience does not take long to manifest. Adam and Eve give birth to two sons, Cain and Abel, one of whom turns out to be a murderer. From there, things head downhill in a hurry; Cain s descendants take the sin of their father and run with it, to the point that Cain s murder of his brother seems like child s play (Genesis 4:23-24). 1. What s Satan s plan for your life? In a word: death. He [the devil] was a murderer from the beginning... (John 8:44). Contrast that we Jesus mission statement:...i came that they may have life and have it abundantly (John 10:10) What does this say about humanity apart from God? That we are separated from Him, subject to death and (self) destruction. Our original goodness - still reflected in the fact that all humans remain made-in-god s-image - is now marred by the entrance of sin into our lives. The result is death 1 in every sphere of human and created existence. The general tenor of the Old Testament (and world history since then!) reinforces the fact that we are all in a middle of a mess beyond reckoning. Humanity in the New Testament The New Testament authors are equally clear on the polluted condition of humankind without Christ. The most extended meditation on this theme lies in Romans 1:18-3:20, in which Paul goes to great lengths to show how all of humanity had access to God s revelation and yet chose to ignore it to their own peril. We have failed to attain the right- 2

4 eousness God requires and are thus deserving recipients of God s wrath. In short, on account of sin, we all stand condemned as guilty, sentenced to death. Here are Paul s thoughts on the topic: For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth (Romans 1:18). We know that the judgment of God rightly falls on those who practice such things (Rom 2:2; see Rom 1:29-32 for what things Paul is referring to). Because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God s righteous judgment will be revealed (Rom 2:5). For those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury (Rom 2:8). For we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under sin, as it is written: None is righteous, no, not one (Rom 2:9-10). 2. If you re dying to know more about the wrath of God, explore the following: Romans 4:15; 5:9; 9:22; 12:19; 13:4-5 Ephesians 2:3; 5:6 Colossians 3:6 1 Thessalonians 1:10; 2:16; 5:9 This is all very bleak of course. 2 And that s exactly the point. The first three chapters of Romans were written to smash any argument that would allow for salvation (specifically deliverance from the wrath of God) or right standing with God apart from the love of God manifested through Jesus Christ. Sidebar: The Wrath and Love of God There s so much talk of the wrath of God in Romans 1-3 that it s easy to think of Calvary as evidence of Jesus love appeasing the Father s wrath. This kind of sacrifice to ap- 3

5 pease the gods can sound pagan and weird if not approached carefully. Let s take a moment to lay the groundwork for what s happening between Jesus and the Father in the salvation event at Calvary. 3. George Eldon Ladd, A Theology of the New Testament, 465. For starters on Paul s repeated affirmations of God s love as the motivation for sending Christ, look at: 2 Corinthians 5:19 Romans 5:8 Romans 8:3 Romans 8:32 One scholar states: The first thing to be said about the death of Christ is that it is the supreme revelation of the love of God... Paul repeatedly affirms that it was the very love of God that accomplished the atonement wrought by Jesus death. 3 What is not happening is a situation in which Christ takes the loving initiative to appease an angry and unmoving Father. The Godhead is unified; both the Father and the Son work together to bring about the redemption of humanity. But how do we reconcile God s love and His wrath? For Paul, this was not that large of a difficulty. God is loving, but He is also just, which means He cannot overlook wrongs done by a sinful humanity. Such wrongs done in defiance of an all-powerful Creator necessitate a divine response. Otherwise, God would be guilty of not upholding the worth of His name or His ethical standards. This is the general thrust of Paul s thought in Romans 3: This was to show God's righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. Romans 3:25-26 In fact, God s wrath is an expression of His love, otherwise how would those who put their hope in Him be assured He will make all things right? The beautiful thing about the Father is that even as humanity stands under the wrath of 4

6 God (Ephesians 2:3), His love causes Him to seek after and joyfully embrace anyone who would respond in faith to the work of His Son Jesus Christ (Luke 15:1-7). In short, because of His great love for us, God saves us from His just wrath to come, and the futility of a life lived without Him now. Though difficult, rehearsing the fallenness of humanity is essential to fully appreciating the beauty of God s salvation. It s been said that the depth of our worship is directly related to the depth of the hell God has saved us from. The more we grasp our hopelessness outside of Christ, the more we will worship our Savior who has saved us. How Does God Save? *Hebrews 12:2...looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. God saves us through the work of the sinless Jesus Christ paying the debt our sins required through the sacrifice of His shed blood on the Cross. He willingly, joyfully*, substituted Himself in our place, assuming upon Himself the legal demands of our sin, and having covered them with His blood, now provides an avenue of reconciliation with the Father. Here s how Paul describes what happened - notice the legal undertone of his wording: And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. Colossians 2:13-14 Your sin created a debt between you and God. But God in His love, acting through Jesus, set that aside through the 5

7 the cross of Christ. Therefore, without Jesus, there is no hope for salvation. The phrase used by theologians to describe this is substitutionary atonement, meaning: Substitutionary: Jesus died in our place, for our sin. The wrath due us was placed on Him instead. He was able to bear it because He Himself was sinless, and therefore eligible to pay our penalty. Now, because He has done it, we are no longer subject to God s wrath, nor do we incur the judgment for our sins. Jesus has stood in our place, our judgment fell upon Him. Importantly, the evidence of God s acceptance of this arrangement is the Resurrection. The Resurrection guarantees that Christ s work was/is sufficient and its effects still reach us today. Atonement: Through His death, Jesus brings a sinful humanity and a holy God together to be at one. We are no longer enemies of God, subject to His wrath. We have been adopted now into His family, as co-heirs with Christ to the inheritance God has in store for His family. Salvation is much more than a sentence of Not guilty - you re free to go ; it s an invitation of Adopted - you re invited to sit at the table. Here s how Paul describes it:...remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.... For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 6

8 Ephesians 2:12-13; As evidence of the centrality of Jesus death in the Biblical writers imagination, consider that each of the four Gospel dedicate between 30-50% of their total length to describing the events of Jesus death. In short, God saves us through Jesus death. 4 Why Does God Save? We covered this in some depth in chapter 2 [namely: God saves because that s just an expression of who He is] but it s worth repeating here. The clearest Biblical witness as to why God saves because He is love. John 3:16 is not to be overlooked at this point. Read the familiar refrain with fresh ears: For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16 Romans 5:8 reinforces the point:...but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8 John would go on to describe God as the embodiment of love. Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. 1 John 4:7-8 God chooses to save because salvation is the ultimate expression of love and love is just who He is. 7

9 Of course, God s love graciously extended to us is meant to engender love within the recipient for God and one another. The church father, Augustine of Hippo, forcefully declared that, without love, we don t get it. So anyone who thinks that he understood the divine Scriptures or any part of them, but cannot by his understanding build up this double love of God and neighbor, has not yet succeeded in understanding them. May we always be a people defined and marked by love. 8

10 Key Points to Remember Apart from Christ, humanity is enslaved to sin, subject to the wrath of God and totally hopeless. There is no conflict between God s wrath and His love, they are complimentary aspects of His character. His love is the driving force behind our salvation. Jesus saves us through his substitutionary, atoning death on the cross by paying the price our sins deserved and opening a way of adoption with the Father. God saves because He s a loving God. He really loves us. Reflection How has your understanding of God s love changed in light of this study? How does the claim that humanity is inherently sinful and subject to God s wrath sit with you? What (if any) objections would you make? How does the realization of what God has saved us from influence your gratitude and worship? Further Reading A Theology of the New Testament by George Eldon Ladd, especially pages [Don t be intimidated by large textbooks like these. Ladd is fairly accessible and quite helpful. This book is worth your time.] 9

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