Being saved is a past present and future thing. I believe we have lost sight of what it means “to be saved.” Salvation is a product of relationship with Jesus who’s name means Jehovah Saves. In the next two posts I’d like to stretch you minds to maybe see “salvation” differently than you might have been taught. What if we have missed it? What if we are missing out on something that God died to give us? In the last two posts I’ve set the stage for the next two. Check out “Destination Theology” (which an awesome man of God pointed out is not a real thing, yay!) and “Wrong Obsession.” OK, here we go…let’s “get saved.”
The early church would have embraced “salvation” as a very different thing than we do today. We (especially in the west) have made it about religious contracts and not relational covenants. That is a huge misstep. It is understandable from a historical perspective. When we confine the Holy Spirit to the pages of a leather-bound book (Cessationism) and we make the cross a place of child sacrifice for an angry God (penal substitution) then we are left with a sin nature and powerless identity to do nothing but wait for a rescue mission by a god that wants to destroy the Earth anyway. OK, I took a bunch of liberties there and used some pretty intense hyperbole but so did the writers of the Bible. Please don’t be offended. Give it a chance and use your mind of Christ.
For this post I say we tackle covenants verses contracts. In the next post we will talk about what we get from a covenant instead of a contract.
First we need to set some background. We in the west just don’t understand a covenant. The closest thing to a Biblical covenant and likely the only remaining covenant we have today is marriage. When two people are married they become one flesh. This isn’t strictly metaphorical. It is spiritual, physical (in the obvious way) and physiological in a medical way. I don’t intend this to be a medical journal but there a chemicals released when men a woman “become one flesh” that seal the deal. A bond is created that is “one of a kind.” My grandparents were married since they were 20 years old. My grandfather died when he was 90. My grandmother lasted only 8 months without him. They were truly one flesh.
We don’t really understand what it means to say that the only way out of a covenant is death. Check out “Your shield and great reward” for a deeper look into the covenant of God with Abraham. When we step into a covenant with God there is no way out other than dying. It is a life commitment that has conditions but does not create entitlements. It is a commitment between two parties that says “I will never break relationship with you for any reason whatsoever.” It is a guarantee that both parties will stay committed to the relationship. It is a promise that both parties will grow in relationship. In a marriage this relationship is actually a union and the growth is the two loosing independence to be “the one.” Jesus says we are His bride. That should give you a clue about the kind of covenant that Jesus intends.
A contract on the other hand is not the same at all. It does establish entitlements. If you keep up your end of the contract than the other party is obligated to provide the contracted service or response. If you buy a car you sign a contract to pay for it and you get to keep it while you are paying for it. It you sign a contract with a company for services you agree to receive the services and pay the company. You are entitled to receive what you contracted for and they are likewise entitled to receive what they contracted for. If the contract is broken then the deal is void. If partial services are provided then the contract stipulates what restitution should be provided if that was part of the original contract. In some cases the contract is an “all or none” kind of agreement where both parties walk away. In some cases if one party fails to fulfill their side of the contract then the other can take legal action to “force” the other party to ensure justice has been served.
Salvation is not a stipulation of contract. The cross is not a payment for a future obligation. A “sinners prayer” is not a signature on a dotted line that contractually requires God to let us into Heaven. Of course that sounds ridiculous so we will add “if from the heart” to make it more binding. We add conditionals like “really make Him Lord” or “submitting your life in obedience” or “following the Law to the best of our abilities” or “getting Baptized” or “confessing on a regular basis” or a bunch of other religious activities and shallow promises in the name of a contract. Salvation is not a final destination guaranteed by God because Jesus got punished instead of us. Not it. No way.
Jesus died to bring us into a covenant. He died to restore us to the Father. He died to give us proof that it is OK to come out of the bushes and fall into the arms of our Father. He died to bring us back into the family as children. We have been hiding, God came seeking. We have been afraid, God says have no fear. We have lived in condemnation, Jesus says I do not condemn you. We made God our enemy, we were never God’s enemy. We were lost in Sin, Jesus takes it away. We were dead to God, Jesus gave us life again.
A covenant is a relationship made in life which is only broken in death. A covenant is assurance of “forever” and when it is made with God it can only be forever. In the divine exchange it now includes infinity as boundaries. When I am born again as a new creation in Christ Jesus I have His life. When Jesus was resurrected into a new covenant He will never die. So my eternal life guarantees an eternal covenant with an eternal God. Jesus said this:
Mat 26:27 he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “ Drink of it, all of you, 28 for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. 29 I tell you I will not drink again of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father ‘s kingdom.” (ESVST)
So why does He say He wouldn’t drink it “new” (New kind, unprecedented, uncommon) until He was with us in His Father’s Kingdom? He was about to die. Death breaks a covenant. In dying Jesus broke the old covenant. In our “death” we break the all the old covenants (Law, Adam, devil, Sin). We die to our old self as a fallen human and are resurrected into a new life with Christ. Jesus dies and in doing so puts the old covenant on the cross. He is raised again in the Kingdom under a new covenant with us. This one is eternal.
When Jesus dies He reveals the true nature of the father and a better covenant than the first. In this new kind of covenant we KNOW we are forgiven. His blood is the proof of the forgiveness not the payment for the forgiveness. The blood says “so you will know that I can be trusted I pour out the blood.” Just like Abel’s better sacrifice. Abel shed the blood in celebration of forgiveness. He was throwing a party to remember how God killed an animal to cover their shame and demonstrated His forgiveness of their infraction. That is why Abel’ s sacrifice was accepted (see this post). Just like when God made the covenant with Abraham. The dead animals, the shed blood was a strong statement that declared “if I break this covenant with you then let what has happened to this animals be done to me.” The blood on the ground was the proof. Just like God with Moses. God had already clearly stated His position and what He would do. He said plainly that He would bring them into the land. He was going to do all the work. He was going to “scare” the “bad guys” away. Then Moses spread the blood. The blood wasn’t needed to justify the promise like a payment for a service. The blood was a signature on a life covenant of relationship.
What was at the root of the dysfunctional separation previously? Our obsession with sin. Our condemnation and shame. Our hiding in the bushes. Jesus is saying you are forgiven and you can trust me when I say “This blood I am going to shed, my blood, is the proof. Only a death can break this covenant.” We drink with Him on this side of the cross because we are in His kingdom and He will never die. His eternal life and eternal nature makes the covenant eternal.
The really really awesome amazing and unbelievable good news is Jesus as God and Jesus as man does it ALL! He takes us into death with Him and raises us up with Him.
Matt 5:18 Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for ALL men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for ALL men. (ESV)
Rom 6:5 For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. 6 We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. 7 For one who has died has been set free from sin. 8 Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. 9 We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. 10 For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. 11 So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. (ESV)
Every person on planet Earth, every person born, every person who has lived has this same opportunity. Jesus takes care of both sides of the covenant just like He did with Abraham. We have a relationship with our Father if we want it. We have a groom waiting for His bride. We have a Father waiting for His son. We have a brother waiting for His brother. We have a friend waiting for His BEST friend. We have a teacher waiting for His student. We have an encourager waiting for His first string player. We have a covenant not a contract.
In the next post I’ll talk about what it means to have salvation in this covenant. For now I say we declare our wedding vows. It is really simple. We just stop running. We stop hiding. We step out of fear and into the arms of Love. Say what you want. Confess what you need. Declare what is on your heart. His arms are waiting. His covenant is secure. His plan for you in this relationship is your “salvation.” He wants to save you from everything this keeps you from Him and He does it in this covenant relationship. Go ahead and say your wedding vows! I would love to hear them.