September 19, 2020

Salvation: Is It So What? or Whatever?

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Galatians 3:10 For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them.” 11 Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for “The righteous shall live by faith.” 12 But the law is not of faith, rather “The one who does them shall live by them.” 13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us — for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree” 14 so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith.

I’ve taught an adult Bible study here on our campus for the last 15 years. Right now we’re in the middle of Galatians, chapter 3.

I can’t read this paragraph without thinking about the “seeker sensitive” decision to attempt to create interest in Jesus through various kinds of felt needs.

There’s no doubt that the application of the cross and the Lordship of Christ can take us literally anywhere in human experience. So it isn’t irrational to say “If we talk about sex in marriage, or finances or parenting, or stress, we will eventually be able to talk about the Gospel.” You can connect the dots with this method.

In fact, looking back on my own preaching career and method, I’ve used this method a lot. I work very hard at finding introductions and illustrations that come at my audience contrary to their preconceptions about what Christians are going to say. I like nothing better than to go down one direction and then suddenly make the relevance of the Gospel apparent when most of my hearers least suspect that it’s coming.

But we have to face something that is unavoidable in the New Testament text: when the Apostles present the Gospel, they do so almost exclusively in terms of how Christ rescues us from a problem humanity has in reference to God.

Christ redeems us from the curse of the law. OK, what kind of problem is that? It’s a problem with God, a problem understood in the context of the law of God and God’s moral demands.

There are obvious dimensions to this salvation on the human plane, but if we aren’t talking about Christ in reference to a redemption from God as well as by God, we aren’t talking about the New Testament gospel.

What makes this important is the undeniable fact that we live in a culture where human beings will think about any issue from almost any angle OTHER THAN in reference to the God of the Bible. If God is going to come into the picture, he will be deconstructed into a God who makes no demands and only offers help.

Can I get my students to pray a prayer to receive Jesus as savior? Yes.

Can I get them to believe that God is the kind of God presented in the Bible? Especially in the Old Testament? No.

And this doesn’t change if I get them to listen to messages on sex, parenting or finances. It doesn’t change if I find “side doors” into the though processes of the person hearing the Gospel.

Christ became a curse for us. But who says we’re cursed? I don’t feel cursed. Do you?

Christ redeems us from the curse of the law. Whose law? Why does someone else’s law apply to me?

Christ justifies us by faith, apart from works of the law. What is justification? Well….was there some question of whether God would accept us? Isn’t that what he does all the time for everyone?

I am impressed when preachers can present the Gospel straight on and bring people into a class or study where the Biblical categories make sense.

I am not so impressed when the Gospel is taken out of its New Testament context and made into a general proclamation of salvation that isn’t primarily in reference to God.


  1. son of adam says

    Dana and MDS,

    I couldn’t have said it better, and obviously didn’t!

    Willard and Wright have also helped me tremendously.

  2. God has ‘appointed unto man once to die’….thus the curse. That ‘spiritual’ death happened in the Garden when Eve ate of the Tree of Knowledge. Death did not happen as a result of sin…but as a completion of God’s plan to make ‘man in our image.’ After Eve and Adam had both eaten, God said, “Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know GOOD and EVIL;….’ The eating of the Tree of Knowledge was an event purposed by God to give man a Free Will. Man now has internalized (experienced) both good (Garden with God) and evil (destructive nature of Satan). God ‘appointed’ the state of ‘death’ or ‘curse’ for man. God also ‘appointed’ man redemption from the ‘curse’ of death (‘lamb slain before the foundation of the world’).

  3. For many…confusion happens when trying to divide the Law into Old and New Testament Law. Then Ten Commandments (the shall nots) proved those already under the ‘Curse’ were guilty (‘all have sinned and come short of the glory of God) and in need, therefore, of redemption. Christ’s spiritual death (death of His soul)…not His physical death (crucified fleshly body) removed the ‘appointed’ spiritual ‘death’ or ‘curse.’ But….but….but…in order to pass from the ‘death’ back to ‘life’….one has to accept the redemptive act. Christ’s redemptive ‘death’ and resurrection to Life, invoked the latter part, or the fulfillment of the Law. “Love” is the fulfilling of the Law….therefore, the complete Old and New Testament Law …both condemns and redeems man.

  4. We are in the ‘Love’ part of the Law. “If you love me…you will keep my commandments.” The glorious interactive Love between God and the individual believer….accomplishes righteous fruits (deeds). God, Christ, and the Holy Spirit are workers. Most words used in connection with God….are action verbs. Each person chooses to remain in ‘death’ or to move from death to ‘Life’ in Christ Jesus.


  5. >…Death did not happen as a result of sin…but as a completion of God’s plan to make ‘man in our image.’


    >….Christ’s spiritual death (death of His soul)…not His physical death…

    Whoa again.

  6. son of adam says


    Double Whoa! Can you elaborate on that? You lost me.

  7. Gotta take a young woman to a court ordered meeting. Will elaborate soon as I return.

  8. son of adam says

    This stuff’s not going to be on the test, is it?

  9. Carolyn:

    This appears to me to be Word-Faith teaching, quite similar to Kenneth Copeland and various Tulsa teachers and prophets. Would that be correct?

  10. “The eating of the Tree of Knowledge was an event purposed by God to give man a Free Will.”

    Huh? Eating the fruit couldn’t give free will since free will needed to already exist for them to eat the fruit in the first place? They already had free will before they ate the peach.

    There are quite a number of other whoa’s there for me too.

    MDS – “The mental gymnastics of getting all the puzzle pieces put together correctly satisfies a certain sort of itch, but is void of life. They become a curse to my living in relationship…..”

    Right on brother. I’m a recovering theology debater myself. I still enjoy the “mental gymnastics” as you put it, but I’ve found it to be largely hollow. (at least in the way I approached it – as a debate tournament) And when that hollowness got expressed in arguments/debates, it was pretty bad for my relationship with God and everyone else. As I go through life, I’m becoming less and less worried about precise theology beyond the Nicean-type level.

    On the flip side, I am becoming more bothered by the divorcing of Jesus from everything else in the Bible. A Jesus who came to save us from big, vague, hazy somethings gets pretty hazy too and seems to stop being Jesus pretty soon.

    How do the two go together? I’m not really sure. On one hand I’ve got an understanding that is much more inclusive than before, but it’s also getting a bit more dividing than it was before because there is a HUGE population of people who say “Jesus saves!” but don’t seem to think of what they might be saved from or what it is that caused the need for saving in the first place. I start to have more questions about those people than about my gay friend who argues up and down that there’s nothing in the Bible about homosexuality, but trusts in Jesus who saves from God’s judgment for our failings.

    I suspect I suffer from some version of Multiple Personality Disorder.

  11. I’m more and more convinced that sharing the Gospel is almost always the most effective in the context of relationship. Not *only*, but *mostly*.