This Analogy Might Help
Perhaps understanding "salvation" the way that the New Testament writers used this term can be helped with this simple story.
Jim had been living on the streets for several months struggling with finding a job that would finally get him enough money to move into an apartment. Going from one homeless shelter to another, he met a nicely dressed man one day while waiting at the employment center. After talking awhile this gentleman expressed an interest in possibly hiring him, so Jim gave the man his full name and information about where he could be contacted in case a work opportunity surfaced.
The well dressed gentleman was actually quite wealthy and a benevolent individual who was looking for people to help financially, and without Jim knowing it, this wealthy man opened up a bank account in Jim's name along with a $100,000 deposit.
Now, consider this question: Is Jim wealthy?
Well, you could say, "Yes, he is. He has $100,000."
Or you could say, "No, he's not wealthy unless he knows it and can benefit from his treasure."
In one sense, he is wealthy - yet in another, he's not.
So, how does this relate to the way the New Testament speaks of salvation?
When Christ died for the sins of the world, He was successful and complete in His work on the cross.
Paul clearly states it in Romans 5:18 (and several other places) "So then, as through one transgression (Adam) there resulted condemnation to ALL men, even so through one act of righteousness (Jesus Christ) there resutled justification of life to ALL men."
According to the Apostle Paul, ALL men benefit from the one act of righteousness by Jesus Christ.
The issue comes down to this: The traditional view that has been held by the church since the 4th century is that the benefits of Jesus sacrifice can not be imputed (or deposited into ones account) until we do something. That "something" might be belief, a decision, repentance, baptism, church attendance, etc.
However, if Paul is accurate and we understand him correctly, then righteousness has been deposited into everyone's bank account. Everyone!
Now, back to Jim. Is he wealthy?
Well, the money is in his account, so he is.
However, like Jim, most of the world is not presently benefiting from Jesus' sacrifice in that they don't see and appreciate it.
When Jim learns about the $100,000 in his account, his wealth is the same, but in a much greater degree because he knows and appreciates it!
When we learn of this fact: God has placed Jesus' righteousness into our account - then our appreciation for this amazing act of mercy becomes transformative. That transformation becomes "salvation" in the same way that Paul declares: "work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure."
Maybe salvation is twofold: The imputed salvation that comes from Jesus righteous act on the cross and then our appreciation of that amazing act of mercy. (And most will not appreciate this fact until the day of their resurrection.)
Keep this thought in mind as you read the New Testament, particularly passages regarding faith and salvation.
Along this same line of thought, check out Peter Hiett's sermon at www.TSDowntown.com
ACCESS SERMON DATABASE - Go to Feb. 9, "The Faith That Saves You"
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Rachel and Ivan's
Another Analogy to consider:
There was a passenger ship with a thousand people on board. The captain assembled all the passengers and announced to them, "The ship is about to sink, but I have `Good News.' Fifty of you will be able to make it to dry land with the life boat."
Is this "Good News"? I contend that it is not "Good News" at all.
For the nine hundred and fifty who are about to perish, it certainly is not "Good News." For those fifty who will not perish, it is not "Good News" to them either - because they will leave behind children, wives, husbands and friends.
Most of all it is not "Good News" to the captain because he knows it was his responsibility to assure the well-being of his passengers.
We Believe Jesus is our successful captain.
(perhaps everyone's salvation is Good News to Him too!)
Markus Barth tells this analogy:
Some bank robbers stole some money from a bank and fled to hide in the everglades. As they were fleeing they dropped all the bags of money, which was then recovered by the police. While they were hiding in fear, the judge commuted or forgave their offense. The judge then sent the sheriff and his deputies, with blood hounds, out into the swamp to tell the thieves that the charges against them had been dropped.
The Sheriff and his deputies were sent to “announce salvation.”
Yet, every time the men and the dogs got close to the thieves, the thieves would hear the dogs and hide deeper in the swamp."
Then Barth, would ask his students, “Are those men forgiven and saved… or not?”
[Just because they don't know they're forgiven does not negate their forgiveness.]
A friend from Halifax, Nova Scotia sent this great analogy after watching Peter's Downside/Up video "Hallelujah in Hell".
It's short and accurate.
"Over here folks burn large blueberry fields; the fire destroys the thorns and thistles, but the blueberries thrive. For the blueberries, it’s paradise regained."
Rachel Stein and Ivan Berg Analogy
(Based on a true story)
The next day, the Stein’s could see through the lace curtains in the attic as a group of German soldiers approaching the house along with the young Ivan Berg. They took the Jewish Stein family away along with the Dekkers.
As the years went by Ivan Berg watched the empty house, realizing that his neighbors were never going to return – and they didn’t. In fact every member of the Dekker family died in German prison camps and only one of the Stein’s survived. That was Rachel Stein.
In 1941 the Stein family was hiding from the German SS in the attic of long time friends, the Dekker family in Rotterdam.
One of the teenage neighbors, Ivan Berg, had just joined the Nazi party and suspected there were people hiding in the Dekker home. He acted as though he was interested in helping the Dekker family, but after gaining their confidence he reported them to the SS.
Because of Ivan Berg’s actions, Rachel saw each of her parents and her sisters die. In fact she witnessed an SS officer shooting her father in the head just moments after their arrest.
After the war Rachel managed to find her way to the United States and eventually married and had children.
Over the years she thought often of the neighbor Ivan and the German SS who killed her father.
As she harbored a hatred for these people, she finally came to the realization that she needed to forgive them. As difficult as it was, Rachel experienced a great relief when the hatred that was held all those years was finally relinquished.
Even though she had no idea whether Ivan Berg was even alive half a world away in the Netherlands, Rachel’s life was completely changed by letting go of these hateful feelings and her genuine desire to forgive those who were responsible for the death of her entire family.
Soon afterwards she had an opportunity to tell her story to a group of women and one of these ladies convinced Rachel to share her experiences before an even larger group. A few weeks later her story was picked up by a national news agency and even made its way to her home country of the Netherlands.
Ivan’s brother heard the story on the news and when he found out she was from Rotterdam he realized that she was probably from the family that his brother had helped arrest in 1941. When Ivan learned about this from his brother he was amazed that she was alive and more astonished that she was telling a story of forgiveness.
Two weeks later, Rachel was asked to speak in Rotterdam where she was welcomed by a large audience. In attendance that day was Ivan Berg, the man most responsible for the death of her parents and sisters.
After the crowd left, he made his way to the stage to tell Rachel who he was. Her attitude of forgiveness overwhelmed him and she saw it in his eyes. As the tears streamed down his face - they embraced and wept together.
Question 1 –
Was Ivan Berg forgiven when Rachel decided to forgive him, long before returning to Rotterdam?
Question 2 –
Or, was Ivan forgiven when his brother told him about Rachel and her story of forgiveness?
Question 3 –
Or, did his forgiveness begin when he came up to Rachel after she spoke in Rotterdam?
Question 4 –
Which came first: Rachel’s mercy or Ivan’s contrition?
Question 5 –
Was Ivan’s forgiveness contingent upon asking for forgiveness?
Question 6 –
Was there something unique or life changing about Ivan’s understanding of Rachel’s forgiveness when he went to her and confessed that he was the man who was guilty of having her family taken away by the German SS?
God’s mercy precedes our belief
God’s forgiveness is provided to us because of the sacrifice of His son. Jesus was the willing and perfect lamb sacrificed for the sins of the world. He did not come to condemn the world, but to save the world. (John 3:17)
Eventually, we all will see and know this forgiveness personally, whether it be this side of the grave or after the resurrection of all.
Belief brings us to an understanding of something that God has already done, and that brings us life. An aspect of life that goes forward in knowing our Father loves us and has declared our sins forgiven. Not because of ourselves, but by His endless mercy. That’s grace.
More on Rachel and Ivan . . .
If we are trying to understand the “imputation of righteousness” or a comprehension of how does Jesus sacrifice become beneficial to us personally – it seems that it is a mystery.
Just like Ivan’s forgiveness. When was he forgiven?
When was the forgiveness life changing?
Rachel’s mercy did not rest upon Ivan. Yet Ivan’s attitude of contrition and wanting to express his sorrow for his actions – this brought about a transformation in their relationship.
But, (and this is a big but) - the idea that Rachel would have had Ivan arrested and tormented if he was not accepting of her forgiveness is absurd.
Likewise, we are sadly mistaken if we think our creator, the God of the universe who knows us intimately, would send His Son, the perfect lamb, to die on the cross for the sins of the world - yet cast out or torment those who failed to really see His loving forgiveness.
This life is not a test.
Even more importantly,
it’s not a theological test.
Like an artist, this world is a canvas. It is God’s canvas. He is creating a tapestry in which He will display with all the majesty of the universe His love and mercy. Each of us are experiencing struggles and heartache according to the way He intends to reveal His kindness for all eternity.
Our creator is setting up a backdrop.
The contrast is critically important. It’s difficult at times for us, but imperative for us if we are to comprehend and appreciate God’s affection for His creation – and His holy plan.
If the world had remained perfect, we would never be able to see it. And when we see the amazing biblical pattern of restoration after destruction – it becomes even more apparent that this is a major part of God's plan.
It's not a test for us.
It's all about God.
This world and all it's problems are part of His amazing plan to display His endless mercy to all.
"You do not stay angry
forever but delight
to show mercy."
PETER HIETT'S RESPONSE:
The Apostle Peter writes that we are tested by fire (1 Peter 1:7).
I'd state it something like this:
Life is not a test, so God can discover
what we would do.
Life is a test, so we would discover
what God does.
We are not tested to see “if” we’re worthy of salvation.
Being tested is salvation—part of the process of salvation.
We are tested like Gold is tested by fire.
The fire burns away the dross and reveals the treasure.
The dross is my old man—my old earthen vessel.
The treasure is the New Man—permanent, indestructible, and solid gold.
“In the very place it was said to them, ‘You are not my people,’
There they will be called, ‘sons of the living God.’” (Romans 9:26, Hosea 1:10)
It’s my understanding that a sculptor would form an image in wax, then encase it in clay (an earthen vessel). The Sculptor would then fire (or test) the vessel, melting the wax and creating an empty void in the now hardened earthen vessel. He would then pour molten bronze or gold into the cavity. His artwork was tested, not to see if it was artwork, but to transform it into his masterpiece.
“We… were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.”
“We are his masterpiece, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them”
“I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint; my heart is like wax; it is melted in my breast; my strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to my jaws; you lay me in the dust of death.”
(Psalm 22:14, What Jesus quoted on the cross.)
This may be far fetched… but I’ve wondered for years if Jesus was describing the process of our own salvation—being tested in him somehow.
He bears our sin to destruction (wax) and gives us his righteousness (gold).
“If we are joined with Him in a death like His,
we will surely be joined with Him
in a resurrection like His."
Don’t know if that helps… just mentioned it in case someone says, “God does test us.”