If you’re anything like me, then you love ordering things on Amazon Prime. Books, gifts (I do all of my birthday and Christmas shopping on Amazon) and basically everything else except for my groceries are purchased with Amazon. It’s such a time and money saver!
I’ve recently been thinking a lot about the term salvation (or, deliverance), and I started to realize that in many ways the “components” of salvation can be broken down the same way as an Amazon Prime order. When we order things online we naturally just think of that purchase as a one step process. I click, it shows up two days later. Similarly, today we often minimize salvation to a one-step deal, and end up equating salvation to simply being the same thing as being forgiven (justified) without realizing that in our salvation we get ALL of Christ, not just one small piece of him.
But if you think about it, an Amazon Prime order isn’t as simple as just clicking on an item and then having it show up at your door a few days later. There are a few steps along the way, which I will outline below:
1) The Transaction: At some point, you add an item to your cart and click ‘buy’. When this happens, a transaction takes place. You paid for the item in order to get it from Amazon. The item could never be yours without a transaction where you pay for it in full.
2) A Change in Ownership: Immediately following the transaction, the item becomes mine and it is guaranteed to me. Because of Amazon’s guarantee to the customer, there is no scenario where I will end up without the item. It is now mine.
3) The Delivery Process: Unfortunately, Amazon has yet to invent space-time warp particle displacers, so the item cannot be instantly transferred to me. It must first be placed on a truck and sent out by Amazon and come via a delivery service. Even if the delivery process hits a snag or a delay, the process will still ultimately end up with me getting the product I ordered, because of the price I paid, the change in ownership and the guarantee to me.
4) The Arrival: Two days after your order, the product you paid for in the transaction that became yours ends up in your hands!
See, an Amazon Prime delivery isn’t as simple as one step – even though sometimes it may seem that way. In a similar way, we should see our deliverance – our salvation – as something much bigger than just one step.
Indeed a transaction took place to purchase us; we are a blood-bought people. But we are not only blood-bought people, because when the divine transaction of Christ dying in our place occurred to forgive us of our sin, we became children of our Heavenly Father. Our ownership was transferred out of this world and we became adopted as sons and daughters, acquiring the inheritance of Christ.
But, having been ransomed to the Father, we are not instantly taken to him. No, there is now a “delivery process” where we are being made more like his Son. I recently ordered some comics from Amazon (don’t judge me!), but rather than delivering them to me the UPS driver just took them to the local UPS center for pickup instead. The delivery hit a snag – yes it was a delay, but it didn’t erase the reality that those comics still belong to me, and are guaranteed to me. This is our sanctification; we are being prepared for the day when we will be presented to the Groom as the beautiful, spotless Bride. There may be hiccups on the way, snags that seem to slow or even reverse the process, but we are promised to Him. Nothing can now separate us from our guaranteed delivery.
Finally, in our glorification we will arrive in the Fathers presence. Never to leave his presence, we look forward to the final state of being delivered into his hands.
This comparison, of course, is not at all to belittle the magnitude and beauty of our salvation. However, I think this is a helpful picture for realizing that there is more than one piece to our salvation – and that is a good thing. So, to summarize in the paraphrased words of Herman Bavinck; in salvation, Christ first restores our relationship to God, then we are adopted into God, then he renews us after God’s image, and finally preserves for us our heavenly inheritance.
Alexander Smellie, “The Hour of Silence” 1899
“Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”
Jesus answered him, “I tell you the truth, today you will be with Me in paradise!”
“Twas a thief,” Robert Browning writes, “who said the last kind word to Christ.”
In the morning the thief was OUT of Christ:
far from God and far from righteousness,
the helpless captive of sin,
the child of despair and death.
At noon the thief was IN Christ:
remembered graciously by the Savior of the lost,
redeemed with an everlasting redemption,
endowed with the new heart,
and freely and perfectly justified.
In the evening the thief was WITH Christ:
gazing on the glories of paradise,
safe at home with his good Shepherd and adorable Redeemer.
What a crowded and memorable day this was in his history! So much was pressed into these few hours. Such a glorious and unprecedented transition they brought, from the cruel cross–to Heaven’s glory!
OUT of Christ,
then IN Christ,
then WITH Christ!
Hopelessly lost in the far country,
then safe under the Savior’s wings,
then beside the Lord on His glorious throne!
Are these the three stages in my spiritual biography?
I know the first only too well.
Am I growing more and more familiar with the second?
Is it my joy to look forward to the third?
“I ask not the favor given to Paul,” Copernicus said, “I seek not the grace bestowed upon Peter–but I beg the mercy granted to the thief on the cross!”
The chart below is a word study I’m currently working on for the word σωτηρία, which is Greek for ‘salvation’ or ‘deliverance.’ This chart contains all 45 uses of σωτηρία and all its variants in the Greek New Testament. I’m working on this study because it has been my observation that, specifically within Protestant Evangelicalism, the emphasis of using the word ‘salvation’ has been the aspect of our justification, that is, “getting saved.” My hypothesis is that, although “getting saved” is certainly one aspect of salvation, it is only one small aspect and in fact may not even be the primary thrust of the word in the New Testament.
I’ve divided the usage of salvation up into four categories: justification, adoption, sanctification and glorification. These are common “categories” or “steps” theologians often refer to in what is called the ordo salutis – the order of salvation. I’ve added a fifth category called receiving Christ, which I’m using to refer to all four aspects listed above.
The below analysis is a work in progress. I’m positive I’m wrong about some of these. However, the emerging numbers show something striking; it does seem that “getting saved” is not the primary focus of salvation in the New Testament. In fact, because “receiving Christ” seems to be the most common usage of the word σωτηρία, perhaps that is really the overarching usage of the Biblical authors, despite which particular aspect they are referring to in an immediate context? And, if that is the case, maybe this idea of receiving Christ and union with him should be our focus too?
Current results are as follows:
|Luke 1:69||and has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David,||Justification|
|Luke 1:71||that we should be saved from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us;||Justification|
|Luke 1:77||to give knowledge of salvation to his people in the forgiveness of their sins,||Justification|
|Luke 19:9||And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham.||Receiving Christ/Sanctification|
|John 4:22||You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews.||Receiving Christ|
|Acts 4:12||And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”||Receiving Christ|
|Acts 7:25||He supposed that his brothers would understand that God was giving them salvation by his hand, but they did not understand.||N/A|
|Acts 13:26||“Brothers, sons of the family of Abraham, and those among you who fear God, to us has been sent the message of this salvation.||Receiving Christ|
|Acts 13:47||For so the Lord has commanded us, saying, “ ‘I have made you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.’ ”||Receiving Christ|
|Acts 16:17||She followed Paul and us, crying out, “These men are servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to you the way of salvation.”||Justification|
|Acts 27:34||Therefore I urge you to take some food. For it will give you strength, for not a hair is to perish from the head of any of you.”||N/A|
|Rom 1:16||For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.||Receiving Christ|
|Rom 10:1||Brothers, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for them is that they may be saved.||Justification|
|Rom 10:10||For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.||Justification|
|Rom 11:11||So I ask, did they stumble in order that they might fall? By no means! Rather through their trespass salvation has come to the Gentiles, so as to make Israel jealous.||Receiving Christ|
|Rom 13:11||Besides this you know the time, that the hour has come for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed.||Glorification|
|2 Cor 1:6||If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer.||Sanctification|
|2 Cor 6:2||For he says, “In a favorable time I listened to you, and in a day of salvation I have helped you.” Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation.||Receiving Christ|
|2 Cor 7:10||For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death.||Sanctification|
|Eph 1:13||In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit,||Justification|
|Phil 1:19||for I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance,||Sanctification/Glorification|
|Phil 1:28||and not frightened in anything by your opponents. This is a clear sign to them of their destruction, but of your salvation, and that from God.||Sanctification|
|Phil 2:12||Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling,||Sanctification|
|1 Thess 5:8||But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation.||Glorification|
|1 Thess 5:9||For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ,||Glorification|
|2 Thess 2:13||But we ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers beloved by the Lord, because God chose you as the firstfruits to be saved, through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth.||Sanctification|
|2 Tim 2:10||Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory.||Receiving Christ/Adoption|
|2 Tim 3:15||and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.||Justification|
|Heb 1:14||Are they not all ministering spirits sent out to serve for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation?||Adoption|
|Heb 2:3||how shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation? It was declared at first by the Lord, and it was attested to us by those who heard,||Receiving Christ|
|Heb 2:10||For it was fitting that he, for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the founder of their salvation perfect through suffering.||Receiving Christ|
|Heb 5:9||And being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him,||Glorification|
|Heb 6:9||Though we speak in this way, yet in your case, beloved, we feel sure of better things—things that belong to salvation.||Sanctification|
|Heb 9:28||so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.||Glorification|
|Heb 11:7||By faith Noah, being warned by God concerning events as yet unseen, in reverent fear constructed an ark for the saving of his household. By this he condemned the world and became an heir of the righteousness that comes by faith.||N/A|
|1 Pet 1:5||who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.||Glorification|
|1 Pet 1:9||obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.||Sanctification/Glorification|
|1 Pet 1:10||Concerning this salvation, the prophets who prophesied about the grace that was to be yours searched and inquired carefully,||Receiving Christ|
|1 Pet 2:2||Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation—||Sanctification|
|2 Pet 3:15||And count the patience of our Lord as salvation, just as our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you according to the wisdom given him,||Sanctification|
|Jude 3||Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.||Adoption|
|Rev 7:10||and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!”||Receiving Christ|
|Rev 12:10||And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, “Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God.||Receiving Christ|
|Rev 19:1||After this I heard what seemed to be the loud voice of a great multitude in heaven, crying out, “Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God,||Receiving Christ|
He bore my sin on Calvary’s tree
And Righteousness bestowed on me
That I might see his face.
God justified me, set me free,
And glorified I soon will be:
How marvelous this grace.
-James Montgomery Boice
After two years as a committed Calvinist, I’m done. No longer will I wear the quotes of dead white dudes on my sleeves; no longer will I stand committed to cleverly articulated doctrines in the shape of a flower.
Well, at least, not formally.
It has long been my conviction that titles and labels in Christianity are helpful so long as they serve to point people to Christ and stir their affections for Him. Labels and distinctions are helpful to communicate what and why we believe to be true about Christ, the Church and his Word.
The problem is, the term “Calvinism” often draws more hatred than it does stir affections; it turns people away from Christ rather than drawing them to Him. I’ve noticed this happens for one of three reasons: either 1) people don’t understand “Calvinism” and so they draw caricatures or interact with a false depiction of it, writing it off as cruel or mean, 2) people mistakenly think “Calvinists” worship Calvin over Christ, or 3) they’ve only interacted with cocky, prideful people who mistakenly believe themselves to be “true Calvinists.”
Taking these three things into consideration, I’m giving up on “Calvinism” and the five points of TULIP. Where these terms have failed, it is now my purpose and intention to elevate the grandeur and grace of my King Jesus Christ. You see, my King is gracious and worthy to be worshiped beyond all comparison. There is no one more worthy of his praise. Even if he were not gracious and kind to us he would still be worthy of all my worship because that is just who he is.
Yet, he is gracious. He’s so loving and gracious to us that we can’t begin to fathom it. Without Christ, all of us are dead in a rebellious state against the creator (Romans 3:9-18, Ephesians 2:1). When the Bible says dead, it means dead. Corpse. Lifeless. Incompatible with life. But in his kindness to us, knowing the consequences of our sin is death (Romans 6:23), he predestined a plan for us in the fullness of time (Ephesians 1:10-11).
This plan is Christ our Savior. On the cross, Jesus died for his sheep (John 10:11). The definiteness of his death is what enables the Apostle to say that before the foundations of the world he knew us! This efficacious grace in our lives does not mean we are robots just waiting for God to make a move. To paraphrase one of my favorite Christian artists, it was while we were dead and a slave to sin that we were actually robots. True freedom of our will only come when Christ breaks into our reality and frees us from life in the machine.
When Christ graciously, lovingly, and rightfully makes himself King of our lives he holds us tight in his hands. We are not held tight in his hands only, but because Christ and the Father are one we are held tight in the Father’s hands as well(John 10:28-30). What assurance this is! So much grace is given to us that the grace of God does not only save us but keeps us. Those whom Christ proclaims as his are kept until the very end. This is not some trite saying of “once saved always saved.” No, those whom the father saves he restores, and those whom he restores he fuels to obedience and good works. Those who are redeemed will be known by their works, those who are not known by their works are not redeemed (James 2:18).
This life, this inheritance, this adoption as a son or daughter is grace. Sweet, loving, amazing grace. Who are we to argue about this love? Who are we to deny the grace and love of our Father in heaven and diminish it to some argument over labels and titles? I do not love “Calvinism” because I worship Calvin; I am grateful to the work of Calvin and saints of history past for their work that helps point me to Christ, increasing my love for Him. If we decline the hard work and labor from the history of the Church, we are cutting ourselves off from the richness revealed to our forebears by the Holy Spirit.
Abraham Kuyper once said, “The special trait of Calvinism [is its ability to place] the believer before the face of God, not only in His church, but also in his personal, family, social, and political life. The majesty of God, and the authority of God press upon the Calvinist in the whole of human existence.” The sad reality is that many people who claim “Calvinism” do not live the way Kuyper outlines, favoring instead cockiness, arrogance and pride. Brothers and sisters, this should not be so! How can a doctrine that is all about the necessary grace and love of a God far greater than we can imagine ever make us prideful!?
The only hallmark of true Calvinism should be that of a penitent spirit, someone who wakes up in the morning and cries out, “God, have mercy on me, a sinner” (Luke 18:13). This kind of posture of the heart can never take the form of pride or arrogance. B.B Warfield explains the “Calvinist” as “humble souls, who, in the quiet of retired lives, have caught a vision of God in His glory and are cherishing in their hearts that vital flame of complete dependence on Him.”
But as I said, I’m done with “Calvinism.” Seeing as how the name and fragrance of its tulips deter people from the grace of the King, from now on I will primarily and solely speak of His grace sans labels. See, I don’t want to convince anyone of “Calvinism.” Oh Lord would it not be so! No, I want to convince you of grace. If and when my “Calvinism” begins to get in the way of that more often than not, then I’m done with the title. My motivation is now to live my life in such a way that when you ask me why I live the way I do, I can confidently say “Grace.” Or, what was formerly known as “Calvinism.” No labels, no titles, no doctrines wrapped up in a pretty bow. Just grace.