Salvation perspectives that infer a contingent transaction are overwhelmingly common with the evangelical gospel message. In this post, I want to discuss the possibility that we can express the gospel in ways that override this default perspective.
The reason for Jesus’ sacrifice on our behalf was because we were helpless to reconcile ourselves to God. The gospel message is not what we must do to get to God. If any part of the plan of redemption is dependent on us, it has an inherent fatal weakness, which is why it is important to not communicate transactionalism in the gospel.
Here are a couple of statements I’ve made in prior posts that do not fit the western evangelical model:
God’s act of reconciling mankind in Christ demonstrated scandalous love toward everyone – enemies, sinners, the ungodly, and the undeserving – with a one-sided benevolence that is difficult to grasp – an unconditional gift, not just the possibility of salvation.
What God has done in Christ to reconcile the world to Himself is an accomplished reality. It is not a transaction contingent upon your response. Your response does not in any way affect God’s stance toward you. His gift is unconditional; faith is not the action that makes it a reality.
The gospel as God’s unconditional deliverance of mankind clashes fundamentally with the transactional understanding that is presumed in the western evangelical gospel. Since I have been writing about the gospel as unconditional, the most common pushback that I have received concerns the issue of decision or choice.
A common argument is that salvation as a gift is conditioned upon our acceptance of the gift. However, God’s saving act took place when no condition had been or could be met. The really good news – you are loved and embraced by God the Father, period.
Another common argument is salvation as amnesty or pardon, which is conditioned upon returning to our home country. Yet, instead, Christ came to the “far country” and brought all of pardoned humanity home to the Father. A person will either live in the light of this truth or continue to live in the delusion of alienation.
Rather than a message that perpetuates alienation, the gospel story of Scripture is that God jumped into our mess in His recovery mission. Through the incarnation and crucifixion, He entered into the depth of our brokenness in order to restore our communion with Him.
Why doesn’t everyone enjoy the benefits of salvation now?
Why do so many people NOT partake of divine life?
God chose before the foundation of the world that all mankind would be saved in Christ. Just as by one man, Adam, death came into the world, by the second Adam all are saved. God stepped into the depths of our lostness to rescue mankind. His saving act in Jesus is complete.
I understand the concern about making a decision and believe that free will and choice are essential to relationship. There cannot be love without the freedom to respond. It is helpful to distinguish between God’s saving act and our participation in that reality.
a. The decision regarding the adoption of mankind was a unilateral act of God and is an established reality. God has done what man cannot do.
b. It is in the realm of relationship where choice is essential. This is a response of cooperation and participation in the already established union with God.
Partaking of divine life is not an automatic thing, but that does not negate the unconditional nature of God’s saving act. We have agency to participate in what God has provided. For those who have awakened to God’s love, salvation is ongoing participation in divine life.
One’s experience of kingdom life and the quality of their relationship with God, to whom they are reconciled, is dependent on their cooperation. This is an ongoing choosing, not a one-time decision. All of life is the moment by moment opportunity to live in light of this reality. The transforming love of the Father, the indwelling life of Christ, and the ministry of the Spirit empower this journey of living out the reality of reconciliation.
This position does not fit the traditional frame of either Calvinism or Arminianism. However, it does address the salvation of humanity as the divine initiative of God while still acknowledging the role of human free will in relationship and communion with God. I would be very interested in reading your thoughts.