Today we’re starting a new series on the site: Theology for Dummies. We don’t actually mean you’re dumb, of course. Once upon a time “For Dummies” was a hugely popular book series, illuminating the basics of a given subject for people who felt they should know more but felt shy about asking. Our series is going to put a twist on that concept. We’re going to talk about concepts in theology that should be obvious to us, but somehow we end up acting as if they weren’t true. Even though that’s kind of…dumb.
We’re starting out with a concept that’s so obvious, you wouldn’t think we’d have to state it: We Need a Savior!
Christian churches confess that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. Four gospels, plenty of epistles, reams of church doctrine, a few church confessions, and approximately 2000 years of theological analysis all converge on this point. Jesus is the Savior! There is no church without it.
So why do we spend so much time pretending like it isn’t true? Why do we spend so much energy, language, and time pointing in the opposite direction, acting as if we still save ourselves?
If we are capable of saving ourselves, then God wasted his time with that whole death and resurrection thing. If we could be saved by anything we do, say, or believe, why couldn’t we have just done that without Jesus, and without the scandalous horror of the cross?
And yet here we are, in 2019 AD, hearing people make claims like these:
We could cite a hundred more examples. Suffice it to say any theological construct involving a passive God who is waiting to respond to your actions—an “ATM God” waiting to dispense salvation to those who have the right PIN code—is a construct in which you save yourself. At that point, there’s no need for a deity, a church community, or anyone beyond you.
Paul writes in Romans 5
6 For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 Indeed, rarely will anyone die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person someone might actually dare to die. 8 But God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us. 9 Much more surely then, now that we have been justified by his blood, will we be saved through him from the wrath of God.[a] 10 For if while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son, much more surely, having been reconciled, will we be saved by his life. 11 But more than that, we even boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.
Christ did not come to save us because we were right, but because we couldn’t be. Those capable of righteousness on their own do not need a Savior. Christ came because none of us were capable. He loved us too much to let us go. That’s why we were saved…not by our own works, but by his.
We prefer to avoid God and the cross, claiming we don’t need a Savior. Claiming this doesn’t make it so. It’s an incorrect response to the only question that really matters. Take some time this week to examine your concept of salvation, and all the things you’ve been told about it. Do the things you’re thinking and saying acknowledge God as the author of salvation, or has some sneaky self-saving crept into your worldview?