What does Jesus tell us about growing in him?
If “repentance” is the crucial element in God’s plan of salvation, then what comes next? How does the believer grow “in Christ” ? For Paul, the idea of being “in Christ” was crucial. Note 2 Cor. 5:17 (NRSV): “So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!”
The question of how do I be saved has always puzzled humanity. The roadmap to salvation is twisted and filled with obstacles when we keep focusing on how we get saved as opposed to who saves.
Our self-help shelves at the bookstore are booming with solutions on how to become a better parent, how to be successful in business, how to save your marriage, how to get fit, how to lose weight: the list of How To programs is extensive.
Leading Question: What do Jesus and Gospels tell us about salvation before Jesus died on the cross?
Given the strong emphasis on substitutionary theology in evangelical circles, a position which sees the death of Christ as essential in the salvation process, it is instructive to note the teachings of Jesus on the theme of “salvation,” teachings which would have been given before he died to pay the price for our sin.
At least since the mid-1970’s, nearly all Adventists in the developed world have enjoyed a relatively sound understanding of Justification by Faith; at the same time, most of us have not been quite as well-informed with respect to Sanctification—a doctrine which treads close to the old canard that anyone who cares about personal holiness or who possesses close lifestyle scruples must, by definition, be considered a legalist.
The first sentence of this quarter’s Sabbath School lesson also captures the most important point about Jesus’ teaching about God the Father: “Jesus delighted to speak of God as the Father.” We as Christians today can’t really recapture how shocking this must have been to His audiences. All our knowledge of Jesus and of Christianity is grounded in our confidence in His claim to have been the Son of God, so much so that we cannot, no matter how hard we try, recapture the original mindset of the Judeans of Jesus’ time.
A kingdom without a law would be an oxymoron, as is the notion of a ruler without rules. All communities and all relationships require guiding and defining principles to maintain health and vitality. Properly understood, law is life. Even secular scientists understand that all living things can only continue to function as they abide by various natural and physical laws. The same is true of our moral natures, as moral disharmony will lead to conflict and eventually death.
For many years, there was never a problem in comparing Christ and the Law—one was a reflection of the other. Careful Adventists would say no one can present the law without the gospel, or the gospel without the law, especially when one understands the Great Controversy theme and what God wants to achieve in His plan of salvation.