Wednesday, 12 November 2008

Jesus, the Source of Salvation

Now, this is perhaps going to sound a little underwhelming, but Jesus is meant to be the source of salvation. "For God has destined us not for wrath but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ." (1Thess 5:9) The logical obverse of this is the possibility of 'wrath', but Christianity does not present salvation and 'wrath' as two equal pathways, one of which must be chosen when you get to the fork in the road. Christianity's hope is that all will be saved. (Rom 5:12-21; 1Tim 2:4) And if we think of this in terms of 'the fork in the road', the two possibilities are not equally weighted. Jesus Christ makes the path to salvation heavily weighted in our favour. The superabundance of God's love in Christ overshadows the estrangement of creation. Could God even save me? Yes, in Christ, even me. (This is the point to start reflection upon sin and salvation, and the possibility of either.) Christ forgave sinners, and, as he pointed out, all sin. (John 8:1-11)

However, this is our hope. It is not a tenet of belief. There is just too much in Scripture (much of it straight from Jesus) and the experience of our own perversity that must leave open the possibility of damnation. For those who pay lip service to Christianity's hope of universal salvation while emphasizing judgment and 'wrath', the shock of the Jesus who calls sinners as disciples (Lk 5:27-28), ate with them (Lk 5:29-31), forgave them (Lk 7:36-50), and told parables about them (Lk 15), needs to sink into the bones once again. And by this I mean deep into ourselves, to know our perversity and the grace that heals, and from there reacquaint ourselves with grace. The superabundance of grace. For those who have forgotten that there remains a fork in the road, it is important to remember Bonhoeffer's teaching about cheap and costly grace.

But what if we were to hang onto our hope that all will be saved, but through costly grace? It seems to me that those who hold to the hope of universal salvation have a tendency toward cheap grace. Let's put our hope in God's power through Christ and the Spirit to change the human heart, and even when the human heart remains cold, let us hope in the Christ who has harrowed hell itself. And in this hope preach and live a costly grace, and still hang onto the hope of St Paul himself.

Therefore just as one man's trespass led to condemnation for all, so one man's act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all. For just as by the one man's disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man's obedience the many will be made righteous. (Rom 5:18-19)

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