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

Are Christians supposed to tithe?

Question: I and my husband have become increasingly uncomfortable with the many sermons on tithing we’ve been recently hearing at our church. Our pastor insists we tithe 10% to the church regardless of what else we give to other ministries. It seems like it has been reduced to a formula: Give ten percent and be…

What is the significance of Deuteronomy 30:19?

After establishing the terms of the covenant he was entering into with Israel, the Lord says, “I call heaven and earth to witness against you today that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Choose life so that you and your descendants may live.” This passage represents the most fundamental motif…

Topics:

What is the significance of Numbers 16:20–35?

After Israel’s sin under the leadership of Korah, the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, “Separate yourselves from this congregation, so that I may consume them in a moment” (vs. 21). Moses and Aaron pleaded with the Lord to only judge those who were most guilty. In response, the Lord modifies his judgment and gives…

Topics:

How do you respond to Acts 2:23 and 4:28?

Question: Acts 2:23 and 4:28 tell us that wicked people crucified Jesus just as God predestined them to do. If this wicked act could be predestined, why couldn’t every other wicked act be predestined? Doesn’t this refute your theory that human acts can’t be free if they are either predestined or foreknown? Answer: In Acts…

What did Jesus mean when he said he came not to bring peace, but a sword (Mt 10:34)?

Given Jesus’ uniform teaching about loving enemies and abstaining from violence, and given that his followers were known for their refusal to engage in violence for the first three hundred years of church history, it’s obvious that Jesus wasn’t saying he came so that his disciples would use swords. The context of Jesus’ comment makes…

The Most Quoted Old Testament Verse

No other passage from the Old Testament is quoted more by New Testament authors than Psalm 110:1. Its frequent citation should cause us to pay attention to what is being said. It reads: The Lord says to my lord, “Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies your footstool.”  In David’s day, it…