Tuesday, September 27, 2005

On the Issue of Salvation in Christ

The following is a personal statement of how I deal with all persons that profess salvation from sin by belief in Almighty God and His Son Jesus Christ. I do not claim to know the mind of God, or fully understand the grace He offers to mankind in the suffering and death of His Son for sin. However, I can read, study, and meditate on the Word of God and I have come to understand enough that I desire to know more and more as God’s Spirit leads me into more knowledge of His Word each day. I also read as much as I can of the writings on Church history, but prefer to absorb God’s Word primarily. As I write this I am acutely aware of my limitations, but I seek to be conformed into the image of Christ and I desire to learn to love all mankind as Christ does, and myself as little as possible. Please bear with me and my ramblings.

The subject of salvation through Jesus Christ, and its attending theology, is an endlessly discussed topic within our Christian circles. A commonly held view today is the Reformed Theology that is based on John Calvin’s interpretation of God's Word as to how salvation is accomplished and is published in his “Institutes.” Another major view is the Arminian view, authored by Jacob Arminius that disputes this interpretation of Calvin. Martin Luther was another reformer, one of the oldest reformers, along with Hulderich Zwingli and another movement that came out of Zwingli’s group called the Anabaptists, or Swiss Brethren. The Reformation churches broke from the Roman Catholic Church from which the Greek Orthodox Church was an earlier split within the original Catholic theology. These Catholic theologies stood between the first century church and the Reformation period in which the Calvinistic, Lutheran, and Arminian theologies had their birth. All of these varying systems of theology basically hold Jesus Christ, as the Son of God and Savior to lost mankind, to be central to their theologies. Beyond this, there is much disagreement. Many views over the years have been expressed, much discussion carried on, and unfortunately, much rejection of one another as Christians due to the different interpretations of God's Word.

Obviously I am not an expert on ancient Church history and the point to this simplistic and brief ramble into the subject is to acknowledge that since Jesus Christ left this world, after His Resurrection and Ascension, man has gone through much in order to interpret God’s Word over the centuries and form a Biblical theology. The Reformation period brought about the greatest changes and with them literally war and death between proponents of one theology or the other.

As the author of this blog, I would rather not become excessively mired in the discussion of which theology is right and which is wrong. That discussion has raged for over 450 years since the Reformation alone, and has not been settled. Even within each theological system adherents argue among themselves as much as they do with those who hold opposing views. I would rather seek to discuss the call of God to all of lost mankind and His offer of Grace by the witnessing of the good news of salvation to sinners through Jesus Christ, to repentance, confession, and obedience to the commands of God as contained in His Word, the Bible. Obviously there are many better trained and smarter individuals within Christendom than myself, which can methodically explain just how God thinks and then interpret God’s Word better than I can. My offering of this gospel is to simply reach a balance by comparing Scripture with Scripture in as literal an interpretation as possible; trusting in the Spirit of God to provide the wisdom and guidance.

In my belief, the greatest teaching of Jesus Christ is that we Christians, we who profess faith in Jesus Christ for salvation, are to be known by our love for all mankind and especially towards one another as fellow servants of Christ. However, we Christians are quick to condemn each other as un-Christian and heretics when our interpretations differ, and this is confusing to me in light of Christ’s command to love one another. See Mark 9:36-40, John 13:34-35, and I Corinthians 13. This lack of love towards one another ought not to be a part of the reality of Christianity.

My foremost view of the teachings of Christ is one of love and acceptance of all people that profess faith in Christ; allowing them to serve and live before their Lord and God as the Word of God speaks to them. I see the call of love in Christ as the ultimate form of obedience to all who embrace Christ and who live in faithful obedience to His teachings and those drawn from the New Testament epistles; this obedience, or its lack, will cause them stand or fall before their Master as proof of or lack of true faith. In any disagreement with other believers I am taught by God’s Word that I may not judge their position as to whether they are saved or not; it is not my job; that authority is God’s and by His direction through the ordained leaders of a particular fellowship or denomination. I do realize that fellowships or denominations must form a system of beliefs and practices for its members that are based on the Word of God, and the members should live and worship within that system or to seek one in which they can support the fellowship and worship of God. The correctness of their choice is also between them and God.

Therefore, if a person finds the Catholic confession, a Protestant confession, or any other variation of Christian confession their choice of worship and fellowship, I will not condemn them. However, when brought into a discussion I may not agree with their choice and may discuss any differences in certain practices and interpretations on occasion, but I will not condemn the other person in their belief, they are God’s servant and they stand or fall before Him. And while we may not fully commune or worship together in harmony of belief, we do worship the same Father and Saviour and stand or fall before Him. (Mk. 9:38-40; Ro. 14:4 )

I do realize that issues of what may be considered right and wrong in the practice of daily living by various Christian belief systems will cause disagreements in our individual or corporate Christian stances, but again I leave these issues of disagreement to ultimately be between the holder of such and Christ, their Lord, along with my prayers concerning their involvements and choices in life that I cannot support. While we are called to rebuke sin, it is to be done primarily within our own life first, then within our particular fellowships, and always done in Christian love considering our own weaknesses. In like manner we also deal with those we witness to while sharing the Gospel.

This blog is open to all that seek to know or who already serve our Lord Jesus Christ and desire to discuss God’s Word and its call to repentance from sin, confession of faith in the existence of God and His gift of the atoning work of Christ on the cross of Calvary, and obedience to the Lordship of Christ and God’s Word. Issues of the day are also on the table for discussion; however, earthly, nationalistic governmental politics are quite low in priority in my opinion. All I ask for is respectful and courteous discussion, along with Christian forbearance, when agreement is not possible. The theology of Salvation through faith in Jesus Christ by the Grace of Almighty God is offered to “whosoever believeth in Him (Jesus Christ) should not perish, but have everlasting life.” Belief in Jesus Christ is demonstrated by a renewed mind, through the transforming power of the Holy Spirit unto obedience to the whole counsel of God’s Word, which indicates the reality of true faith and the presence of the Holy Spirit in the life of the redeemed sinner. (Ro. 12:1-2) (James 2:14-36) (Eph. 2:10)

In full disclosure to all readers, I believe in, serve, and worship Almighty God through the person of His Son, Jesus Christ, with the aid and strength of the Holy Spirit, within the Conservative Mennonite Church, Southeastern Mennonite Conference. I support our Statement of Faith and our Rules and Discipline as they have been drawn from God’s Word to aid me in practical Christian living before God. I am prepared to share a copy of this Statement of Faith and Rules and Discipline to anyone interested, and can do this by e-mail. May God grant to each believer His ever constant mercy, love, and grace as we faithfully, in full obedience, serve Him each day that He graciously grants to each of us.