authority and humanity
1) the nature of salvation
...there is no God apart from me, a righteous God and a Savior; there
is none but me. Turn to me and be saved, all you ends of the earth; for
I am God, and there is no other.
This is how we
know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought
to lay down our lives for our brothers.
John 3:16 NIV
The nature of salvation.
In day-to-day living,
the passion of our temptations and the frustration of our trials often blurs
our vision of the line between right and wrong. What to say and how to act
are not always clear, especially in the heat of a stressful moment or sudden
conflict. When we lose sight of what to do, it's not because the difference
between right and wrong has gotten fuzzier. Right and wrong never stop being
clear. Rather, it's our vision that's lost focus. This problem with our
moral vision is one more reason why God has given us the Bible.
The Bible is the God-given
objective truth by which subjective humanity has been commanded to interpret
God's will for every situation in life. Paul reminded Timothy of this in
writing that the Scriptures are able to make Timothy "wise for salvation".
Paul had recognized Timothy to be among the faithful for a long time (1
Tim. 1:2), so Paul was not writing here about Scripture's ability to facilitate
conversion (i.e., salvation from the penalty of our sins). He was instead
writing about salvation in a different tense.
4.2 The three tenses of salvation.
Salvation, as the Bible
presents it, has three tenses: past, present, and future.
has to do with salvation from the penalty of sin. The moment we first
believe and confess Jesus to be Lord, all our sins are forgiven and God's
wrath no longer remains on us.
has to do with salvation from the presence of sin. When we are finally
brought into heaven, there will be no sin there for us to contend with
and our salvation will have been completed.
has to do with our salvation from the power of sin. After receiving Christ
and the promise of eternal life, but before entering the sinlessness of
heaven, we remain in a sinful world where we must struggle against the
power of sin every day. This means struggling with our temptations and
wrong-doings as well as with the compounding consequences of everyone
else's temptations and wrong-doings.
It is this third tense
in which Paul is writing to Timothy. The Scriptures are able to make us
wise for salvation from the power of sin by teaching us the godly responses
to the various situations in life. Paul finishes this thought to Timothy
in writing, "All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching,
rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God
may be thoroughly equipped for every good work" (2 Tim. 3:16 NIV).
As revealed through
Paul's writing, the Word is God-breathed which establishes its unquestionable
authority. As a result of its authority, the Word is our certainty concerning
- teaching (it
informs us about what is right),
- rebuking (it
informs us about what is wrong),
(how the wrong is to be righted), and
- training in righteousness
(how we should act from then on).
4.3 The purposes of God's Word.
Another way to categorize
the purposes of Scripture are the three ways in which Scripture benefits
us in terms of our relationship to God.
First, because everyone
is born unregenerate, there is a need for each person to be established
in a living relationship with God. This is a primary purpose of the
Second, like any human
relationship, there are things that we need to do in order to maintain
the closeness of our relationship with God.
Third, especially characteristic
of human love relationships, there are things we can do, and things that
God is doing, which help us grow closer and closer together in this
relationship. Let's look at these purposes in more detail.
1.) Establishing a relationship with God:
We are saved (salvation
from the penalty of sin) by God's grace through the vehicle of faith (Eph.
2:8-10). This faith comes to us by the message of God's Word:
comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word
of Christ" (Rom. 10:17 NIV).
That word is the truthful
evidence which enables us to have confidence in our faith:
Jesus did many
other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not
recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that
Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have
life in his name." (John 20:30-31 NIV)
Our new birth into a
relationship with God begins through the Word:
For you have been
born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living
and enduring word of God." (1 Pet. 1:23 NIV)
Likewise, it is through
the Word that our salvation continues (salvation from the power of sin)
by being made manifest through acts of obedience:
rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept
the word planted in you, which can save you. Do not merely listen to the
word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says." (James 1:21-22
Last, it is through
the Word that we know how God's promise of salvation shall result: eternal
He who has the
Son has life; he
who does not have the Son of God does not have life. I write these things
to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know
that you have eternal life. (1 John 5:12-13 NIV)
2.) Maintaining a relationship with God:
For those of us who
have entered into the relationship with God that he calls everyone to, the
Word provides us with everything we need to maintain that relationship.
God provides us his Word for our edification and our guidance:
I gain understanding
from your precepts; therefore I hate every wrong path. Your word is a
lamp to my feet and a light for my path. (Psa. 119:104-105 NIV, also
Neh. 8:7, 8)
God's Word exists to
be an object of our desire:
My soul is consumed
with longing for your laws at all times. Blessed are they who keep his
statutes and seek him with all their heart. (Psa. 119:20, 2 NIV)
And the Word is also
the standard against which we should weigh all counsel and preaching:
for they received
the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day
to see if what Paul said was true, (Acts 17:11b NIV)
Consequently, we should
make the Word a central part of our lives so that by it our own words and
deeds may be weighed. In this manner, the Word will be ever-present to help
guard us from sin:
I have hidden your
word in my heart that I might not sin against you. (Psa. 119:11 NIV)
3.) Growing in a relationship with God:
In addition to the purposes
of initial regeneration and maintaining the closeness of our relationship
with God, the Word exists to help us to mature and grow in that relationship.
This means that through his Word, God reveals himself to us. Thus the continual
exposure to God through prayer, worship, and the Word washes us clean like
the polishing of a dirty mirror. The more we are exposed to the washing
of the Word, the better we are able to reflect God's characteristics and
Additionally, we are
matured and grow through the Word because it is a vehicle by which God can
provide us peace, freedom, strength, and hope:
Great peace have
they who love your law, and nothing can make them stumble. (Psa. 119:165
that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through
endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.
(Rom. 15:4 NIV. See also Psa. 119:28, 45).
NEXT: Biblical authority and
humanity - part two
Conclusion: A story of the S.S.