This page is not about whether we are saved, nor about how we are saved, but about why we are (or could be) saved. What is the ultimate and primary purpose of salvation wrought by Christ? Christ's salvation is in fact multi-sided, with many purposes and effects. For some people getting to heaven is the most important, for others it is forgiveness of guilt, for yet others it is the solving of life problems. But each of these is only part of the picture.
Is there any reason that encompasses the rest? I believe there is. But before we get there, let us go through various of the partial reasons.
Am I saved to escape hell?
Three hundred years ago preachers made much of the terrors of hell, and many fled to Christ in order to escape hell. But is that really a good reason for being saved? It might be true, but is it not rather negative?
Am I saved to get to heaven?
Indeed those who are truly saved by Christ will eventually gain 'life eternal' or what some loosely call 'heaven'. But, except for those about to die, that is too far in the future, and says nothing about life here and now. And
Am I saved to solve life's problems?
Some come to Christ and find challenging problems, such as various addictions or broken marriages, are resolved. But if that is the primary purpose of being saved, are we not in danger of abandoning Christ when other problems come along?
Am I saved to have my guilt forgiven ('justification')?
Some come to Christ because of a sense of guilt, and for them the forgiveness that Christ brings is most precious. But many are not so acutely aware of great sinfulness (though they might acknowledge they are sinners). So, if forgiveness of sin is the main reason we are saved, then it will not mean much to many of us. I'm like that, and for years I tried hard to engender an acute awareness of sin, but it didn't work. Moreover, is this reason not rather too negative? Forgiveness of sins, a state of "no condemnation" [Rom 8:1], is a necessary part of Christ's salvation, and indeed one account of the Lord's Supper tells us that Jesus told his disciples that the Passover Cup is for 'the remission of sins'. But is it the primary part? Or does it serve other, more positive parts?
Am I saved to become a good person ('sanctification')?
It is little use just getting forgiven and continuing to do the same wrong things again and again. Is it not an insult to Christ? Some parts of the church, in some eras, emphasised that justification (forgiveness) should lead to sanctification: to become good persons. The Scriptures do contain the theme that Christ is the forerunner of many 'brothers', and that we are to become like him. But is not focusing on being good persons rather self-centred? Does it not tend to become rather pietistic in the wrong sense? Indeed, we are called to be holy and of good character, but is there not a danger of becoming Pharisee-like? Above all, is it not rather too individualistic, overlooking the problems in society?
Am I saved to become part of God's army?
Some see Christ's death as primarily the defeating of evil (and I John does indeed tell us that Christ came to destroy the works of the devil). And Christ's people have the privilege of being soldiers in Christ's army. We are given power over evil spirits, and other 'gifts of the Spirit' that help us engage in 'spiritual warfare'. Those who emphasise this tend to emphasise intercessory prayer and other works of faith. Doubtless, Christ's people are indeed called upon sometimes to 'fight'. But does not an emphasis on spiritual warfare tend to give the enemy too much credit, even to glorify him? Does it not result in our living our lives according to what the enemy hates rather than what God loves?
Am I saved to be part of the church (the Bride of Christ)?
The church (presumably meant as the collection of people who have been saved by Christ) is called the Bride of Christ - the one who will be consummated with Christ in perfect love and joy when he returns. A lot of beautiful ideas have been woven around this theme, and it seems a high honour and purpose to be part of this. But is that all there is to it? It is similar to the primary purpose being heaven: it does not relate to life and work here and now. It makes us other-worldly. It leads inevitably towards seeing being a Nun or Monk as the highest calling, as in the Roman Catholic church. While some might be called to this, most of the apostles were not. The motive that underlies this is the Scholastic dualism of Nature-Grace, which led eventually to the oppressions of things like the Inquisition. If we make being the Bride of Christ the primary purpose of salvation, our motivations become distorted.
Am I saved to glorify God?
The Westminster Catechism tells us that "The chief end of Man is to glorify God and enjoy him forever". Christ's salvation is seen as restoring that possibility. Indeed this is true. But is it the primary reason for being saved? Does this not give a rather self-centred picture of the God and of us? Does it not resemble immature teenage love, in which the couple have eyes only for each other and are completely oblivious of all else, irresponsibly so? Does this really reflect and do justice to the mature agapé love of God? Surely, agapé love is self-giving, as seen in Christ, and not craving of adulation?
Perhaps I am saved for Rich Redemption, which restores the creational mandate?
We are saved so that our role of imaging (representing) God to the rest of creation can be restored. This is God's Cosmic Plan. It encompasses all the above: we are forgiven, made good people, given power for effective work here and now, and in that God receives glory. We represent God - a role of supreme joy and responsibility. Not just individuals, but humanity can, again, effectively representing God to the rest of creation, and all work in harmony with and under YHWH God. For full discussion of this, see A New View in Theology and Practice.
This page is offered to God as on-going work. Comments, queries welcome.
Copyright (c) Andrew Basden 2009. But you may use this material subject to certain conditions.
Part of his www.abxn.org pages, that open up discussion and exploration from a Christian ('xn') perspective. Written on the Amiga with Protext. Number of visitors to these pages: .
Created: 6 June 2011. Last updated: