Salvation Through Kingdom, Not System

Many Christians recognize John the Baptist as the prophet that once initiated the systematic call to salvation – where a person must be able to recite a prayer, then be baptized…and behold…the person is saved for eternity. But John was not giving a systematic, magic formula which required a person to jump through certain intellectual hoops to be saved.  Like Christ in much of His preaching, John was giving a rebuke to God’s Covenant people (Matthew 3:5-9). Remember, the Gospel was “to the Jew first.”

We should not be scholasticizing the rebuke that was given to God’s people in order to form a contemporary and phony ceremony (new Sacrament). Take a serious look at the New Testament and see that much of what we think to be God giving us a system to be saved was in fact God’s chosen Covenant people in need of rebuke. Salvation was not a new thing (Romans 4:3), but the New Covenant was and so John preached the New Covenant symbol of baptism to replace circumcision.  He also rebuked the Jews and commanded them to repent because they were not accepting their own Messiah and His New Covenant. He was not giving a new system, but rather, was simply rebuking as a teacher would rebuke today.

As a people (especially Americans) that are very unfamiliar with custom, ritual, ceremony, and even culture, we can easily fall into the error of scholasticizing (systematizing). When Paul and Christ said to believe, they were not giving an intellectual and systematic approach to salvation, they were rebuking and exhorting. They were rebuking the Jews so that they would stay committed to the Covenant of Abraham, and they were exhorting the Gentiles to believe through Christ to enter the Covenant. But entering the Covenant through baptism did not mean that one had to recite a prayer or make a public profession. Those who use Romans 10:10, where Paul says to “confess with the mouth,” forget that Paul was speaking about the Jews who were already Covenant people and simply needed to repent of following false teachings. He was not necessarily giving a prerequisite for baptism. St. Paul was rebuking and stating that all must believe through faith, and that it must actually manifest through their very speech; but not just once, as a new ceremony of reciting a prayer. He was simply stating that a true belief involves a life of manifestation – as the rest of the Scriptures clearly proclaim – into the life of a kingdom.

When we become “born again” (John 3:3), we are born into the Church and her kingdom. Our new birth is not a birth into a mere personal relationship as many Evangelicals say. We are birthed into a relationship with Christ through the covenant community, into the Church, into a community of life and peace with the Saints.

When the author of Hebrews gives examples of true faith (chapter11), he specifically mentions the patriarchs’ commitment to the Covenant. He does not say that Abraham repented from his sins against Sarah and is now a godly husband after his encounter with God. The author says that Abraham took a step of faith to build God’s people in a land with which he was unfamiliar (verse 12), and that he was ready to offer a faithful sacrifice to the Lord (verse 17). The writer then goes on to speak about Moses and how his step of faith was a step into the Covenant people. He does not say that Moses made the step of becoming a better, less angry man but that he made a step of commitment to the Covenant community (verse 25) despite the hardship to which it was destined as well as the tempting, luxurious life of Egypt that Moses could have had. These were examples of a demonstrated faith of Covenant community, not a demonstrated faith of a personal relationship.

The Gospel involves a movement of people here in our time and space known as the Church. The Gospel is both ecclesiastical and eschatological. It involves both the “institution” of the Church as well as the cosmos in which God has created us.

Comments

  1. “The gospel is both ecclesiastical and eschatological.” Amen!!!!

    Tragically, this is the fundamental truth that has escaped Evangelicals. A gospel that is not ecclesial is not the Gospel. Christ came to build the ground and pillar of truth which the gates of Hades cannot prevail against, this new theanthropic organism, with Him as it’s Head, has been given the very unity and glory of the God it worships: “The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.” Jn. 17:22-23

    When asked which was the most important commandment, the Lord Jesus responded with the Shema: “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” Mk. 12:29-31 Thus, Christ’s prayer in Jn. 17 demonstrates that God has glorified man for this purpose: to be one in His Body the Church. This means actually entering INTO the love, unity and plurality of the Trinity. Life in God, life in Christ and the Spirit is life in the Church and not in ones own self. To live this “in-corporated” life is the greatest commandment. Just as one should NEVER dare to think of Christ apart from the Father and the Spirit, one shouldn’t dare to think of Him apart from His human members either.

    God is one, Christ the Lord is one, the Spirit is one, the faith is one,the Gospel is one, the baptism is one, the body is…. 28,0000 denominations and still counting because each man has his own “personal relationship with Jesus.” This new “personal Christ” has as many doctrines as there are persons apparently. People need to find the whole Christ, head and body.

    Acts 2:47 …And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.

    New Martyr St. Hilarion Troitsky: Perhaps the most pitiful ill of our times is the perceived division between Christ and the Church. Christianity is viewed not as a new life of saved humanity united in the Church, but as a sum of certain theoretical and moral stands. Rather too much they’ve begun to talk about Christian teachings, and as a consequence have become oblivious of Church life. Coinciding with this, they’ve also forgotten that the most important thing in Christ’s mission is His Incarnation.

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