How to Teach the Doctrine of Salvation on Sunday Morning
The God of Salvation surrounds us. Psalm 19:1 says even the heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky abovet proclaims his handiwork. (ESV) This photo just reminds me of what a great God we worship.
In our society today there are probably as many personal interpretations of the Doctrine of Salvation, or how one can be saved, as there are people, and presenting an accurate picture on Sunday morning to a host of different beliefs and understandings is important. You could dive into all the different aspects of salvation, comparing and contrasting the doctrine according to Predestinary views, Calvinism, Arminianism, the views of Karl Barth, Liberal or Reformed Theology, to salvation by works, but Sunday morning probably isn't the place in 2011. With a largely reduced attention span, and a time constraint of 15-30 minutes, depending on your church, a simple and straight forward, biblical based message, might land and grow roots that last.
For one thing, if you actually have educated views on the theology above you probably have an understanding of "how we are saved" according to scripture. If you don't and are coming at salvation as an unknown, hearing the history of Bonhoeffer's view on God's relation to the secular world may fall on deaf ears. That's one thing I love about our church. The leaders (and today Rusty) don't shy away from the most important teachings of Christianity. Perhaps during the time of Jonathan Edwards when sermons lasted a few hours, or all day, that might have worked well, but today is a different day.
Below is just a recap of how it was presented this morning.
1. How are we saved? In many ways salvation is a process. It starts with a process, is marked by a point in time, and continues on as a process of living out that confessed faith. Rusty presented Romans 10:9-13, which says it perfectly:
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. 10 For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. 11 For the Scripture says, "Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame." 12 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. 13 For "everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved."
For the most part, at least in the United States, we no longer have to confess Jesus with our mouths at the risk of death, but we still live by this confession, and we should take it as seriously as Paul did when he made these statements. Philipians 2:12-13 Paul says
not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you
and for us today, that still means we are to "work out", or put into practice in our daily lives what God has worked out in the Holy Spirit. We are not told to work FOR our salvation, but to work "out" the salvation God has already given us.
2. What are we being saved from? We are saved from death, from the anguish of Hell, and eternal separation from God, but also from the toil of life, a life of purposelessness (Ecclesiastes 1:9), spiritual deadness, and from a life of selfishness. In one of the most exacting and precise statements in scripture, Paul says, for by grace you have been saved through faith, it isn't ever something we can earn. Only Jesus paid that price for us. Ephesians 2:1-3 explains it like this:
And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— 3 among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the bodyt and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. 4 Butt God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— 6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus
3. What are we saved to? We are saved to a spiritual life, a life that matters, and of course Heaven, with an eternity reconciled to God and Christ. As taught by Wesley (and briefly examined by Rusty today), we receive a prevenient grace, then a justifying grace, a sanctifying grace, and then finally a glorified grace in heaven. Once again Paul's words can hardly be improved upon when he says
Colossians 1:19-22: For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross. 21 And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, 22 he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him
and again in Ephesians
Ephesians 2:8-10: For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God,9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast.10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
There are of course many other ways to present the Doctrine of Salvation on Sunday morning, but this just happen to be the way it was presented this morning, and I think it was quite effective for this church on this day.