Sunday, December 26, 2010

This is Who We Are: What a Baptist Is and Believes - Salvation

What is the gospel? That is one of the most important questions we can ever ask.  Unless we answer this question, nothing else we think about, ask about, focus on, believe in, or do will matter.  The gospel identifies the Church, redeems the Church, and is the rock by which the Church is built on.  What is the gospel?

That’s essentially what the Baptist Faith & Message 2000 discusses next.  How is a person “saved?”  How does one get right with God?  What is the gospel?  The BF&M 2000 offer a rather theologically robust and technical answer to that question that at first glance appears rather difficult to understand.  Words like regeneration, justification, sanctification, and glorification aren’t exactly words we use in everyday conversation, but they are important nonetheless.  The BF&M 2000 says:
Salvation involves the redemption of the whole man, and is offered freely to all who accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour, who by His own blood obtained eternal redemption for the believer. In its broadest sense salvation includes regeneration, justification, sanctification, and glorification. There is no salvation apart from personal faith in Jesus Christ as Lord.

A. Regeneration, or the new birth, is a work of God’s grace whereby believers become new creatures in Christ Jesus. It is a change of heart wrought by the Holy Spirit through conviction of sin, to which the sinner responds in repentance toward God and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Repentance and faith are inseparable experiences of grace.

Repentance is a genuine turning from sin toward God. Faith is the acceptance of Jesus Christ and commitment of the entire personality to Him as Lord and Saviour.

B. Justification is God’s gracious and full acquittal upon principles of His righteousness of all sinners who repent and believe in Christ. Justification brings the believer unto a relationship of peace and favor with God.

C. Sanctification is the experience, beginning in regeneration, by which the believer is set apart to God's purposes, and is enabled to progress toward moral and spiritual maturity through the presence and power of the Holy Spirit dwelling in him. Growth in grace should continue throughout the regenerate person's life.

D. Glorification is the culmination of salvation and is the final blessed and abiding state of the redeemed
. [1]

This confession of faith is well written and defines the issue pretty well, the problem is that to the average Christian, much of what is laid out here is difficult to understand even though each issue raised here is imperative and very much part of the gospel.  So what is the gospel? It begins with God’s holiness and our depravity.  We cannot save ourselves because our God is infinitely holy and we finite beings are depraved to our core.  Even the “good” things we do are tainted with sin, thus if we were to rely on our works alone, we would present God a filthy rag of righteousness (Isaiah 64:6).  God is so holy that He cannot ignore our rebellion.  What we need, then, is a substitute.  What we need is grace.

The gospel offers such grace through the substituting work of Christ on the cross by which our sins are imputed (there’s a big word) onto Him and at the resurrection of Christ His righteousness is imputed (there it is again) onto us.  In other words, “[God] made [Christ] who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Corinthians 5:21).  Christ took upon Himself our sin so that when God sees us, He sees the righteousness of Christ.

The cross and resurrection does not just give us a clean slate for us to dirty up again, but a new self, a new life.  This is what we mean by regeneration.  God, through Christ, makes us “new creatures” (vs. 17) whereby we become more like Christ.  Therefore, the gospel says that we are both “saved” now (justification) and are in the process of being “saved” (sanctification) meaning that we are growing in Christ becoming more like our Savior.  Unfortunately man approach the gospel as fire insurance whereby after saying a prayer or getting baptized we’re promised heaven after we die.  That is only part of it.  The gospel is a reformation of who we are at our core.  We are no longer the old man, but a new man that seeks to be more like our Savior.  This means that to be a Christian we both are redeemed at the cross and live by the cross.  Look to the cross and resurrection in everyday life trusting that God will use us for His glory.  We need to seek to reflect Him who bought us at the cross making us children of God, siblings of Christ.  Look to the cross.  Repent.  Believe.  And you will be saved. 

That is the gospel.  Do you believe in this gospel?

[1]  See the following references:  Gen 3:15; Ex 3:14-17; 6:2-8; Matt 1:21; 4:17; 16:21-26; 27:22-28:6; Luke 1:68-69; 2:28-32; John 1:11-14,29; 3:3-21,36; 5:24; 10:9,28-29; 15:1-16; 17:17; Acts 2:21; 4:12; 15:11; 16:30-31; 17:30-31; 20:32; Rom 1:16-18; 2:4; 3:23-25; 4:3ff.; 5:8-10; 6:1-23; 8:1-18,29-39; 10:9-10,13; 13:11-14; 1 Cor 1:18,30; 6:19-20; 15:10; 2 Cor 5:17-20; Gal 2:20; 3:13; 5:22-25; 6:15; Eph 1:7; 2:8-22; 4:11-16; Phil 2:12-13; Col 1:9-22; 3:1ff.; 1 Thess 5:23-24; 2 Tim 1:12; Titus 2:11-14; Heb 2:1-3; 5:8-9; 9:24-28; 11:1-12:8,14; James 2:14-26; 1 Pet 1:2-23; 1 John 1:6-2:11; Rev 3:20; 21:1-22:5.

For more:
This is Who We Are:  What a Baptist Is and Believes - Introduction
This is Who We Are:  What a Baptist Is and Believes - Scripture
This is Who We Are:  What a Baptist Is and Believes - God
This is Who We Are  What a Baptist Is and Believes - God the Father
This is Who We Are:  What a Baptist Is and Believes - God the Son
This is Who We Are:  What a Baptist Is and Believes - God the Spirit  
This is Who We Are:  What a Baptist Is and Believes - Man  

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