Tag Archives: Salvation

The Divine Initiative of Salvation

1 Simeon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ,

To those who have obtained a faith of equal standing with ours by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ:

May grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.

His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. 

In the Second Epistle of Peter, writing under the inspiration of God, we encounter the great depths of the Christian life, both the entrance into salvation and the experience of preserving that salvation all from God’s perspective.  Introducing himself as both an apostle and slave, which shows the dichotomous nature of the Christian life as both exalted ambassadors of the Most High God and the lowliest of slaves in His Kingdom, Peter places himself on the same plane as all other believers, equally called to be a slave of God regardless of function.  As we are told elsewhere, God does not show favoritism. (Acts 10:34; Romans 2:11)

This is further emphasized in the opening of the letter which is addressed to, “those who have obtained a faith of equal standing with ours….”  The word translated obtained by the ESV carries with it the idea of having been divinely allotted, revealing the underlying sovereignty of God in salvation from the beginning.  Clearly then, Peter does not see himself as over or above or superior in anyway to those to whom he writes.  Similarly, it is obvious from this introduction that the addressees of the letter are believers, which of course is an essential fact to establish in order to properly understand, interpret, and apply it’s contents.

Building upon this common faith and standing, Peter indicates the source of both, namely via the “righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ.”  There is a bit of a difficulty with determining what exactly is meant by righteousness here, whether this means the righteousness which is imputed by Christ to all who believe therefore providing a link between faith and the righteousness of God or whether this is simply a reference to the justice of God in saving those whom He has called and elected (1 Peter 1:10).  Both are true and either would make sense contextually, but perhaps the latter is more appropriate here, particularly when remembering the no partiality with God which we established earlier.  In other words, God is just in extending salvation to all, Jew and Gentile alike.

The phrase, “of our God and Savior Jesus Christ,” in the original Koine Greek provides for us an interesting truth concerning our Lord, namely His deity.  As Kistemaker notes, “when one definite article ‘connects two nouns of the same case,’ it relates to the same person.”  In other words, Peter’s sentence construction here was meant to highlight that Christ is both God and Savior.

Before entering into the substance of the letter, we arrive at one final note of salutation, common among New Testament epistles, grace and peace, or that God would be gracious and extend peace to those whom the letter is written.  Peter’s petition is that grace and peace be multiplied to his audience, “in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.”  Essentially, he is asking that through the increase of the knowledge of God, the believers would have (sanctifying) grace and peace (with God/others/life) multiplied to them.

What may we summarily say regarding the knowledge of God?

The word for knowledge here is not the usual gnosis, rather it is epignosis.  Instead of general knowledge, such as a collation of gathered facts, or even applied knowledge, such as wisdom, similar to what we will see later, this is a specific, more complete knowledge that implies an intimate relationship.  Wuest observes that this knowledge, “speaks of experiential knowledge, that is, knowledge gained by experience.  This knowledge of the Lord Jesus possessed by the believer therefore, is not a mere intellectual knowledge of the facts concerning Him acquired by a study of the Gospels, for instance, but a heart experience of what and who He is gained by such a study plus a personal association with Him by means of the Word and the ministry of the Holy Spirit.”  While noting this, we may also add that knowledge of God becomes a central theme throughout the letter.

Having now introduced the letter, we turn to the substance, which is grounded in the divine work of God in the lives of those whom He has called and elected.  First, we see that God’s “divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness.”  Here we see that God’s divine power which is limitless and unhindered by any power or authority let alone the “will” of man, has granted, or bestowed all that we need to live a godly Christian life.  There is nothing else that we need to hold out for, nothing else we need to hope for or look for nor is there any hint that we should feel inadequate or incomplete.  God has granted to us all things, in Christ we might add.  “Granted“, so translated by the ESV, is noted by Wuest to mean, “speaking of the past completed act of presenting the gift with the present result that it is in the possession of the believer with no strings tied to it.  It is his permanent possession, having been giving by pure grace.” (emphasis mine)

Turning now to the goal of those things granted, namely life and godliness, it will do us well to pause for a moment.  Godliness is one of those Christianese words which are liberally used but rarely defined and properly understood.  Admittedly, I likely would have glossed over it and moved on as well had it not been for a side note on the origin of eusebeia.  This word translated as godliness, is a compound of eu, meaning “well” and sebomai, meaning “to worship” which together means “worship rightly directed,” as per Weust.  He goes on to collate some different views on the word which we will summarize as “human dependence, tribute of homage, and expectation of favor, manifest in conduct and conversation, in sacrifice and prayer.”  In reality we may further press home the idea as worship of God in all of life.

Next we have the means through which this divine power has operated in order to bring us all things, namely through, “the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence.”  Again we have our word epignosis and again we have our meaning of a complete and experiential intimate knowledge of God.  How, or by what means, has God granted us all things which pertain to life and godliness?  By bringing us into a personal relationship with Him through His Son Jesus Christ, a relationship closer than an earthly father to his children.  In this personal relationship we have this epignosis inherent in our God-given faith and it is through this knowledge that all things have been granted to us.  As an aside, which we will not develop further here, is that by means of the New Covenant, God promises this universal knowledge Himself, “for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the LORD.” Jeremiah 31:34

This relationship, one in which we just described as closer than a father to his children, is so because by faith we have become “partakers of the divine nature.” All of the promises of God are yes and amen in Christ and these gospel promises we might say, culminate in the death, resurrection, and ascension of His Son Jesus Christ, seating Him at His right hand now to reign as King and intercede as High Priest, allowing us to become partakers of the divine nature.  Not only that, but through His vicarious substitutionary (and penal) atonement, He has redeemed us from slavery to sin, ransomed us from the power of death, atoned for the guilt of our sins, become a propitiation – bearing God’s wrath on our behalf, promised a new, regenerate heart to all those who believe, clothed us with His own righteousness, and even now intercedes on our behalf in the presence of the Father as our representative High Priest.  Not only have those glorious promises found their yes in Christ and been extended to believers, but the knowledge of God, as we mentioned, and the indwelling of His Holy Spirit within believers have as well. The all things and promises of God, book-ended around knowledge of God, are truly inexhaustible.

What more can we say to this glorious divine initiative in our salvation than Soli Deo Gloria!

Abraham and the Righteousness of Christ

 

In two of the more recent posts, we’ve looked at significant Old Testament figures and their hope in the coming of The Redeemer.  It is by faith that they embrace this hope in a forward-looking faith as they awaited the fulfillment of God’s promise.  Though an argument from silence, it would not be difficult to reach the conclusion that these two individuals, Eve and Lamech, were saved.  We move now to a third example of salvation from the OT, one much more explicit and much more foundational to our understanding of salvation in the OT.

In Genesis 11, we are introduced to the man Abram and his wife Sarai.  Abram was called by God to move his family to a land that God would show him (Genesis 12:1) and along his journey we see God unfolding the Abrahamic Covenant while simultaneously pointing forward to the New Covenant (far too much to cover in this post, see Genesis 12:7; Gen. 15; 17:1-14, 19; 22:12-18 ).  In Genesis 15:1-6 we read

“After these things the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision: “Fear not, Abram, I am your shield; your reward shall be very great.” 2 But Abram said, “O Lord God, what will you give me, for I continue childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?” 3 And Abram said, “Behold, you have given me no offspring, and a member of my household will be my heir.” 4 And behold, the word of the Lord came to him: “This man shall not be your heir; your very own son shall be your heir.” 5 And he brought him outside and said, “Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” 6 And he believed the Lord, and he counted it to him as righteousness.”

The context for this passage is the promise of a son to Abraham who would be his heir and provide the lineage for the Messiah who would fulfill God’s covenant in an ultimate sense, literally an innumerable offspring for all those who are “in Christ” (another lengthy post for later).  Abraham’s response is that “he believed the Lord, and he counted it to him as righteousness.”  This may be a familiar verse upon first reading.  It may be one that you’ve read over time and again, and perhaps like I have, taken it for granted.  However, it’s central to our understanding of salvation in the Old Testament because the Apostle Paul references this passage in Romans 4 and follows up in chapter 5 with a significant doctrinal statement.  Read carefully the following:

What then shall we say was gained by Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh? 2 For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. 3 For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.” 4 Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due. 5 And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness, 6 just as David also speaks of the blessing of the one to whom God counts righteousness apart from works:

7 “Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven,
and whose sins are covered;
8 blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not count his sin.”

9 Is this blessing then only for the circumcised, or also for the uncircumcised? For we say that faith was counted to Abraham as righteousness. 10 How then was it counted to him? Was it before or after he had been circumcised? It was not after, but before he was circumcised. 11 He received the sign of circumcision as a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised. The purpose was to make him the father of all who believe without being circumcised, so that righteousness would be counted to them as well, 12 and to make him the father of the circumcised who are not merely circumcised but who also walk in the footsteps of the faith that our father Abraham had before he was circumcised.

13 For the promise to Abraham and his offspring that he would be heir of the world did not come through the law but through the righteousness of faith. 14 For if it is the adherents of the law who are to be the heirs, faith is null and the promise is void. 15 For the law brings wrath, but where there is no law there is no transgression.

16 That is why it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his offspring—not only to the adherent of the law but also to the one who shares the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all, 17 as it is written, “I have made you the father of many nations”—in the presence of the God in whom he believed, who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist. 18 In hope he believed against hope, that he should become the father of many nations, as he had been told, “So shall your offspring be.” 19 He did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body, which was as good as dead (since he was about a hundred years old), or when he considered the barrenness of Sarah’s womb. 20 No unbelief made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, 21 fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised. 22 That is why his faith was “counted to him as righteousness.” 23 But the words “it was counted to him” were not written for his sake alone, 24 but for ours also. It will be counted to us who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, 25 who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification.

The context for this passage is the justification of Abraham by faith.  Subsequently, Paul is laying the foundation for understanding the salvation of all believers, not simply those in the New Testament, which is why he chooses the Patriarch of Israel to destroy any notion of a second way of salvation for Jews versus Gentiles.  Romans 4:3 is a direct reference to our passage from Genesis 15:6.  Notice how Paul expands this idea of Abraham’s justification by faith to include a contrast between “the one who works” and “the one who does not work but believes in him” to show that this concept of salvation by faith alone is not limited to Abraham, but is a paradigm for all salvation.

The phrase coincident to our passage from Genesis 15 and this passage from Romans 4 is that Abraham’s faith was “counted to him as righteousness”.  What does this mean?  There are a couple of ways to approach this answer, the first is that “counted” is better translated “imputed”.  If fact, I’m disappointed with the ESV translation here.  The imputation of Christ’s righteousness is a massive concept in Scripture and “counted” fails to adequately convey this thought.  The NKJV follows suit with “accounted” while the NASB is slightly better with “credited”.  Secondly, I prefer the word imputed (or even reckon) here, but I understand the NASB’s reason for their choice because the idea being conveyed is that on God’s accounting ledger of justice the “debits”, i.e. sins of a sinner, are cleared upon their repentance while simultaneously Christ’s righteousness is “credited”, i.e. imputed or reckoned, to the sinner upon their profession of faith in Him (an oversimplification of the necessity of both repentance and faith).  The Apostle Paul builds upon this doctrine of the imputation of Christ’s righteousness in Romans 5, particularly in verses 12-21.  In this passage we can see the Apostle outlining clearly the “imputation” of Adam’s sin and guilt to his posterity contrasted with the “imputation” of Christ’s righteousness to His posterity, or all those who are united with Him, namely believers.

Simply stated, because of Christ’s perfect obedience to God’s law, He has fulfilled the righteous requirements of the law.  Adam in his disobedience had the guilt from his original sin “imputed” to all mankind.  Subsequently all mankind, fallen in Adam, has failed to meet God’s righteous requirements set forth in His law.  Therefore, we are in need of a righteousness from outside ourselves, namely the righteousness of Christ.  His righteousness, not our own, is credited to us upon our salvation resulting in our justification before God.

Now you may be asking what does any of this have to do with Abraham, let alone salvation in the Old Testament.  I think we now have sufficient evidence to set forth clearly the passage from Genesis 15:6 where Moses, writing about Abraham 2000 years before the birth of Christ, writes an explicit statement about Christ’s righteousness being imputed to Abraham by faith.  Let that sink in for a minute before you ask how can this be?  How can Abraham, 2000 years before Christ even set foot on the earth possibly be declared justified by the imputed righteousness of Christ, “he believed the Lord, and he counted it to him as righteousness”.  Answer: Abraham was justified by a faith that looked forward, believing the promise of God; a forward looking faith that ultimately reached its destination in the finished work of Christ (be reminded also of Hebrews 11:8-12; James 2:14-26).  He was justified, i.e. saved, by faith through the grace of God and the righteousness that comes from Christ alone was imputed to him.  Salvation in the Old Testament is perfectly consistent with salvation in the New Testament.  God has 1 people and 1 plan to redeem them, His Son Jesus Christ.

Sola Fide

Sola Gratia

Solus Christus

A.W. Tozer on Man-Centered Christianity

“Christianity today is man-centered, not God-centered. God is made to wait patiently, even respectfully, on the whims of men. The image of God currently popular is that of a distracted Father, struggling in heartbroken desperation to get people to accept a Saviour of whom they feel no need and in whom they have very little interest. To persuade these self-sufficient souls to respond to His generous offers God will do almost anything, even using salesmanship methods and talking down to them in the chummiest way imaginable. This view of things is, of course, a kind of religious romanticism which, while it often uses flattering and sometimes embarrassing terms in praise of God, manages nevertheless to make man the star of the show.” (A.W. Tozer Man: The Dwelling Place of God)