Philosophy Lite: Salvation leads to discipleship
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By Raymond Smith
Salvation, in the Christian faith, means the deliverance of man from the power or penalty of sin. It is a given that man has a sinful nature - we see and feel it throughout the world around us, and if we're honest, we have to admit we are sinners also. As the apostle Paul confessed, "I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do - this I keep on doing ... what a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God, through Jesus Christ, our Lord."
Most of us remember the verse, John 3:16, "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son that whoever believes in him shall not perish, but have eternal life." Because eternity looms, it is critical that we take this idea of salvation seriously. So, what does it mean to believe in him? John 3:16 does not cover the whole theology of salvation.
From earliest days, God ordained that the covering for sin would be the shedding of the innocent blood of some flawless animal. In the latter days, he sent his only son to be that sacrifice. I suspect that in earlier days, the blood sacrifice became so commonplace that the people lost sight of its overwhelming importance. So, in the fullness of time, God sent his own son to shed his blood for us. This act has captured the imagination of millions of people since then - that Almighty God loved the people he created so much that he would go to that length to save those who acknowledged his Fatherhood and believed in him.
On the face of it, it seems too simple that all that was necessary was that we believe in Jesus, so, what is the depth of belief necessary to obtain salvation? It is not just a head decision, it is a heart decision. In that same book of Romans, Paul writes, "For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved."
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the German theologian who was martyred by the Nazi's, spoke of "cheap grace." That is, a person who gave mental assent to Jesus, but did not accept any of the responsibilities. Christianity is a lifestyle. It is intended to enter into every area of our life.
In making this commitment, we become his disciples. A disciple is an adherent of the doctrine of the leader. In the case of Jesus, it means following his teachings morally and socially, bringing others into the kingdom, and contributing to his cause financially - it is much more than worship and church attendance.
Lastly, Paul admonishes, "Ye are bought with a price: Therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's."
Raymond F. Smith is a deacon at Fellowship Bible Church in Victoria and president of Strong Families of Victoria