Saturday, February 7, 2009

"Brother, when were you saved?"

My short answer to that question is usually twofold: 1) Over two-thousand years ago on a cross outside of Jerusalem on a particular Friday we call "Good," and 2) May 2, 1965 when my parents brought me to the font and I was baptized in the name of the Triune God. Needless to say, I'm usually met with blank stares from the questioner, since said questioner is expecting me to give such and such a date when "I gave my heart to Jesus" or some such nonsense (refer back to yesterday's post quoting Bo Giertz).

Pastor Juan Palm at Palm Sundays blogged about this, and here's what he had to say about a certain professor's answer:
I know a theology professor who was once asked if he had a "personal relationship with Jesus as Lord and Savior." He replied (rather cheekily in order to cut off any further interrogation), "I have Jesus as my Lord and Savior as he comes to me mediated through the Word and Sacraments in His Church, but personally I never met the fellow."
Then, Pastor Palm quotes Pastor Bill Cwirla, who gives a much more thorough answer to the question "Brother, when were you saved?" This is also great stuff for those who wonder about how the doctrine of election fits in here. Rather than bringing uncertainty, the doctrine of election ought instead to bring comfort. Here's Cwirla:

... The best way to approach the “when” question is to note the distinction between the two modes of time: Chronos and Kairos. Chronos, or chronological time, is time as we experience it - evening and morning, clocks and calendars, one event followed by another in sequence. This is the way of history. Kairos is eternal moment, all time compressed into a single point, what some might call “eternity.” Kairos is God’s time, where every moment embraces all of chronological time so that God says “I am the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob” long after Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are chronologically dead. Only as we understand kairos, can we understand Christ’s sacrifice as being “once for all” (Romans 6:10; Hebrews 9:12,26; 10:10; 1 Peter 3:10) meaning that this atoning death on a Friday afternoon embraces all people and all times...

Back to the question “When were you saved?” Answer: It depends how you look at it and why you are asking. Kairotically speaking, I was saved in Christ “from before the foundation of the world” (Ephesians 1:4). Don’t leave out the “in Christ” or you’ll get it wrong. There is no “election” apart from the Elect One, the Lamb who was slain “before the foundation of the world” (Revelation 13:8). This is the doctrine of election, which can only be understood properly “in Christ” (see Ephesians 1:3-14) and in kairos, outside of chronological time.

Played out in the chronos of salvation history, salvation is past, present, and future. Chronologically and objectively speaking, I was saved in Christ, am being saved in Christ, and will be saved in Christ. I was saved at 3 PM on that Good Friday some two thousand years ago when the incarnate Son of God hung dead on the cross from the forgiveness of my sins, embracing me in His death. “When I am lifted up, I will draw all men to myself.” (John 12:32).

I was saved when I was baptized, having been buried with Christ in His death (Rom 6:4) and clothed with the righteousness of Christ (Galatians 3:27). Through the work of the Holy Spirit’s washing of water with the Word by which He rebirths and renews us daily, I received the gift of faith by which I am able to enjoy and put to use the objective and forensic gift of salvation every breathing moment of my life. I would also note here that because salvation is a forensic act of God in that God declares the sinner to be righteous, it is also a sacramental act of God in that God baptizes the sinner declaring him to be dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. Again, don’t forget the “in Christ” or you will get it wrong.

I am being saved whenever I hear the spoken Word of Christ forgiving my sin and receive that Word of Christ as being for me through trust (ie faith). “Now is the time (kairos) of your salvation” (2 Corinthians 6:2). This is the ongoing work of Baptism, daily drowning the sinner to death and raising the saint in Christ to life.

I will be saved at the coming judgment according to the promise of Christ, “He who believes and is baptized will be saved” (Mark 16:16)....

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