Christ In You: Paul on Salvation
July 22–In Christ We Find Pardon (Gal 2:15-21, 3:11-12; Rom 3:21-24; 5:1, 9, 16-18)—The notion of justification has to do with our guilt being pardoned; our sins being forgiven; our standing with God being repaired. The doctrine has been debated heatedly throughout Christian history, in particular the relationship of works and faith to our justification. Paul clearly notes the expectation for God’s people to exemplify Him and follow Christ’s example, but when he speaks about justification, he claims that our guilt is removed not because of good deeds we do, but because we place our faith and trust in Jesus and the work that he did. In Christ we find pardon. In his sacrifice we find that our guilt can be removed.
July 15–In Christ We Find Rescue (Rom 5:6-11, 13:11; 2 Cor 6:1-2; 1 Thess 5:1-11; Phil 1:27-28)—Christians today generally use the word “salvation” to speak about the entire scope of the gospel. But for Paul, it was just one facet of several from God’s grand story. But even still, the reality of being saved from something treacherous IS a major part of the gospel. For Paul, that treacherous situation for every human is being in the path of God’s wrath and judgment. It’s never pleasant to think about, but the justice of God does demand a punishment for sin. So when we think about salvation proper, what we are being saved from is eternal judgment and the condemnation that accompanies it. We find this salvation in Jesus, not because God eliminated the punishment, but rather because he shifted it onto his Son.
July 8–We Need Somebody to Erase Our Guilt (Rom 3:21-26; 1 Cor 5:6-8; Eph 5:1-2)—Many people want God to operate on a measuring scale, where if good deeds outweigh bad deeds then the result is zero punishment. But even our manmade systems don’t work that way. Parents don’t operate that way. Local law enforcement doesn’t operate that way. So why should we expect God to simply act as though our sinful deeds should be ignored? What we need is for our debt to be paid and our guilt to be erased. The obvious solution is for us to pay our own debt, but doing so requires a punishment that we cannot bear. And so God created a different, sacrificial way forward. In Christ’s death, the guilt of humanity was erased and the debt was paid.
July 1–We Need Somebody to Take Our Place (Gal 3:10-14; 2 Cor 5:14-21; Rom 5:6-8)—Paul uses a variety of images to describe the work of Jesus on the cross. One of his most frequent explanations is that of a substitution. Because people are sinful and stand opposed to God, they needed someone who would take their place. So God made him who had no sin to be sin for all of humanity. Not only did Christ take our place, bearing the punishment for our sins, but he also has placed his own righteousness on those who are called his. The substitution model of Christ’s work points to the importance of trusting in Jesus because he is the only one capable of taking our place and putting us in his own.
June 24–Help for a Helpless Situation (Rom 5:6-8, 8:35-37; Gal 3:10-25)—For anybody in need of help, especially if they are completely unable to help themselves, the first necessity is for some outside party to be willing to assist. In the biblical world, help was usually offered with an expectation of some reciprocating service. In today’s world, some people are paid to offer help to those in need. But in God’s case, there is no payment that can be made, nor is there a reciprocating gift that he needs. His intervention into the messy, broken situation of humanity was and is clearly initiated solely by his love for us. The words “love,” “grace,” and “mercy” are all used by Paul frequently, and all of them speak to the beneficent nature of God that prompts him to enter our broken situation and offer a solution.
June 17–A Problem In Need of a Solution (Rom 1:18-23, 2:1-11; 2 Thess 1:8-9, 2:9-12)—Throughout his letters to churches and friends, Paul identifies the basic problem inherent in humanity: an insistence on abandoning God and following one’s own path. The simple word for this behavior is “sin,” though many other related concepts (such as “idolatry”) are often utilized. And while sin has its own practical problems wrapped up in consequences here on Earth, Paul further identifies a much more serious crisis. Human sinfulness results in a disastrous standing before God. Our sin causes us to be recipients of God’s wrath and, as a result, God’s judgment. The entirety of our notion of salvation rests on the principles that there is a need. If this situation does not exist, and there is no need, then why do we worry about God, eternity, and our need for a savior?