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Embracing the Mystery of Salvation

We do a disservice to God and our faith when we try to rationalize Scripture.

Knowing God is the primary pursuit of the Christian life, because without knowing him, it's impossible to know his love or love him back. Of course, we never know him completely, only to the extent he permits—according to what he's revealed of himself. But we struggle even to understand that because our ability to reason is impaired by our finiteness and sin.

God has decided to leave us with mystery that we're expected to embrace—even when we don't fully understand. But mysteries are difficult to control and grasp, and so we try to make sense of them all.

While a rationalized approach to reading Scripture makes us feel better because we have everything "figured out," this approach reduces the meaning of Scripture to the human limitation of "sense." In the end, it doesn't make God more knowable and it risks his nature, character, and will. So although it may make "sense," it negates Scripture's authority because it's superseded by our limited reason.

Why Are Some People More Fortunate?

One way we tend to negate Scripture is through the mystery of salvation. In Acts 16:31 we read: "Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household" (NIV). In Romans 10:9, Paul writes, "If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved."

But what about the people who have never heard the gospel? What about those with geographical disadvantages, who aren't as fortunate as we are to be born in a culture where Christianity is an accepted part of society?

Some people reason from a presumption of innocence that it's not only unlucky for some to be born in a Muslim culture or an atheistic family, but it's just not fair that God would deny "good people" salvation simply because they didn't have the right beliefs. It's not their fault they don't believe, so why should they endure an eternity of separation from God? So rather than accepting God at his word—even though we don't understand the true mystery of salvation—too often we begin to rationalize based on what makes us more comfortable.

The problem with such rationalization is that, as kind as it seems, it destroys the mission of the church and sacrifices the gospel on the altar of reason. It says that although it is Jesus who ultimately saves, individuals aren't required to name Jesus as their Savior to avoid going to hell. Although it's a mystery how and why salvation works the way it does, we must accept it based on scriptural authority—even when we don't fully understand.

What's Our Responsibility?

Jesus' words call us to act and to be urgent about it, not to make excuses for not going into all the world. We aren't to sit back and remain in awe over the narrative that contains Jesus' words, but to move beyond the narrative and act on what he taught. In Jesus' words, we are called to teach "them to observe all that I have commanded you" (Matthew 28:20, ESV).

Knowing and loving God means embracing even the mysteries of who he is and how he acts. We haven't got God all figured out; there are aspects of his nature and will that elude our sensibilities. We should not try to make him more knowable by changing the meaning of Scripture through a rationalist approach. We should be gripped with a passion for those who do not yet know him. If we don't like the implications for those who do not yet know God, our hearts ought to be moved to make him known. The command to share Christ is clear, no mystery there.

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Bible Study; Bible Study and Meditation; Questioning; Salvation; Understanding
Today's Christian Woman, March/April , 2012
Posted March 1, 2012

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