LateWhen

When does salvation happen?

Question: I grew up in a strict, fundamentalist community and our whole goal in life was to get people to pray “the sinners prayer.” Once they prayed this prayer, we believed, they were “saved.” But the vast majority of these people went on living like nothing happened. I’m now questioning if this is the right way to lead people to Christ. So, can you tell me your view of when salvation happens, and how it happens?

Answer: The New Testament describes salvation both as a past act, a present process, and a future arrival point. Also, the biblical concept of salvation isn’t a “rescue (from hell)” thing. It’s a “Kingdom wholeness” thing. It’s about entering into a life giving, Kingdom building relationship with Christ.

It’s best not to put the question of “when salvation happens” into a legal framework (like a court of law). It’s better to rather frame it in a covenant framework. “Getting saved” isn’t like signing up for an insurance policy (the legal framework). It’s like getting married (the covenant framework).

Salvation (= kingdom wholeness) begins with a covenant pledge and it grows as one lives out that pledge day by day.

We are the “bride” of Christ, betrothed to Jesus. This begins with our “I do.” We grow as we live this pledge out every day — the bride “making herself ready.” And someday our groom will come back for his bride and we’ll “consummate” the marriage eternally.
When I have an opportunity to “lead people to Christ,” I explain to them what I just told you. If they are ready, I simply lead them in a short prayer in which they confess their sin, ask for forgiveness, and pledge their life to Christ. It’s no different than a pastor leading two people as they enter into marriage vows. But I explain to them, very carefully, that this is not a magical “rescue prayer.” It is a marriage vow. Their pledge only has as much meaning as they give it every subsequent moment of their life.

Given how prevalent the “magical rescue” understanding of the sinner’s prayer is, I now consider it irresponsible to have people pray it unless I have time to clearly explain to them what they’re being asked to do, and what the cost is. They’re surrendering their life! This shouldn’t be entered into frivolously. I worry that many today give lost people a false assurance that they’re “saved” because they prayed a “magical,” meaningless, prayer.

Category:
Tags: , ,
Topics: ,

Related Reading

How do you respond to Isaiah 14:24, 27?

The Lord of hosts has sworn: As I have designed, so shall it be; and as I have planned, so shall it come to pass… For the Lord of hosts has planned, and who will annul it? his hand is stretched out, and who will turn it back? The fact that Scripture frequently speaks of…

What is the significance of 1 Samuel 13:13–14?

Because of Saul’s rebellion, Samuel tells him, “The Lord would have established your kingdom over Israel forever but now your kingdom will not continue.” The biblical narrative depicting God’s dealings with Saul up to this point is predicated on the assumption that God intended to establish Saul’s descendants as the permanent heir to the throne…

Topics:

Does the Bible teach total non-violence?

I wouldn’t say the whole Bible teaches non-violence, for you find Yahweh engaging in quite a bit of violence in the Old Testament. But I would say that the whole Bible clearly presents non-violence as God’s dream for humanity, and I would most certainly say this dream is realized in Jesus Christ and the Kingdom…

What is the significance of Esther 4:14?

The wise Mordecai encourages Esther to bravely risk her life by pleading the case of the Jews before King Xerxes, saying, “…if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come…

Topics:

The Cross is Revelation and Salvation

The way Christ saved us from the curse of the law was “by becoming a curse for us” (Gal. 3:13). So too, the way Christ freed us from the condemnation of sin and enabled us to “become the righteousness of God” was by becoming sin for us (2 Cor. 5:21). Getting this point is crucial…

What is the significance of 1 Samuel 15:35?

“…the Lord was sorry that he made Saul king over Israel.” (see 1 Sam. 15:12). Once again, the Lord expresses his regret over having made Saul king of Israel, an emotion which is inconsistent with the classical view of God’s foreknowledge. It’s important to note that Samuel had prayed all night trying to change the…

Topics: