Salvation now, salvation then
Soteriology (the theology of how we are saved, so to speak) is not an uncomplex discussion. You’ve got “Calvinists,” “Arminians,” “Free Gracers,” “Catholic,” “Orthodox” and the more recent “faithfulness” guys (they haven’t found a label yet. But, what they believe, in the end, is that your salvation depends on how faithful you were to God… it’s a sort of mixed Protestant and Catholic view. NT Wright is a good example of someone who is leaning towards this view.)
At any rate, I’m more of a “Free Gracer,” (but I hate placing myself in these boxes, because there are many views within the views) but still find the work of guys like NT Wright helpful and fascinating. Also, I’m a big fan of John Piper (a notable calvinist.)
However, I’m beginning to come up with some of my own little thoughts and views and am beginning to see ‘salvation’ in the Bible as pertaining to a whole lot of things. If you, like me, struggle with certain sins you will most certainly know how to cry to God for ‘salvation’ from your sin – because it keeps ruining you and your relationship with God, others, and yourself. It’s a big stuff up, to put it in cheesy (yet real) terms. I desperately want salvation from my sin.
Consider the poor, for instance. They’re the guys who seem to face sin head on. Let’s be honest, some of the poor are definately lazy – a sin that has been ingrained into them from childhood, perhaps. This sin of theirs effects every part of their life, not just their relationships, but their stomach too. Only the Spirit of God can save them from this sin that is ruining their lives.
But they are also, often, the victim of other’s sin. Injustice, for example (consider the Caste system in India.) Here the poor are not the victim of their own sin, but the sin of others. They desperately need God to save them from injustice.
What is salvation, then? Is it merely the assurance that you are going to heaven? When I fall into a persistant sin, the issue is no longer “Lord, please don’t count this sin against me,” but it rather becomes, “Lord, please save me from this destructive sin! Somehow! Please!”
When you’re the victim of injustice, you cry out to God for salvation. You don’t cry out, “Lord, please make sure that I get to heaven, so I won’t have to endure this forever…” but rather, you cry out, “Lord, save me, now! Please!” Imagine you’re being tortured. Though the joy of God and his eternal promises may sustain you through any process, you still cry out to God to save you from your torture. Sometimes, when we have brought salvation to people, we have not brought the entire message of salvation – the liberating, vindicating side of God saving you NOW.
He is our salvation, through and through. When I read the Bible, I see this coming through. God promises to be the salvation of the poor and oppressed, the hated and the victims of injustice. ”Salvation” covers more than just “going to heaven.” It means that Today is the day of salvation – Today he will save you, restore you, vindicate you, and justify you before himself and before men. Though I believe justification happens when you believe that Jesus died for your sins, I also believe that your justification STARTS there. In one sense, that you live out your justification and discover your vindication. This is why the Bible always seems to speak in ‘already, but not yet’ sort of terms. You’re saved when you believe, but you RECEIVE your ENTIRE salvation in every practical sense when you die. You receive your entire salvation now, to be sure, but you still need to live it out and die to receive it in it’s fullest sense. I’m saying that everything is now, but the now needs to be lived out. This is why we know we are saved, but can also ‘hope’ for our salvation (as the Bible puts it.)
God has come to save us from hell, to be sure. But also to save us from sin. To save us from injustice. To save us from sickness – physical, mental, spiritual. To save us from sadness – he will give us joy. To save us from poverty – he will bless us, and we will be a blessing to others. To save us from the evil one, and his systems. He saves us, and then gives us authority to tramp on scorpions, so we can bring His salvation to others.
He is truly my light and my salvation – I am saved by grace, absolutely freely. I have no relation to the law. Yet, I am to live a life of love which is not in conflict with the law (see Gal 5:22) And there are plenty of things I am still to be saved from – and God will save me from them all. This is salvation, too.