What is the Christian Faith? Part IV (CC-5)
This blog is the fifth in a short series dedicated to the Christian faith. As the title clearly implies, the Diamond Soul book is addressed primarily to a Christian audience. It would only make sense, therefore, to provide a brief refresher on the Christian theological doctrines which are applicable to the subject matter of my book.
On the other hand, I strongly believe that the teachings contained in the Diamond Soul are highly relevant to all open-minded people interested in self-growth and personal development. I take, therefore, this opportunity to introduce them to the beauty, mystery, and richness of the Christian faith.
Before getting into today's topic, I'd like to share with you the editorial review published by the SPR agency a few days ago.
What is the Christian Faith? Part IV
The Doctrine of Salvation
The doctrine of Salvation is at the heart of the Christian faith. It is also the most difficult to understand, interpret, and apply. This section will outline the distinction between redemption and salvation and survey God's relationship with sinners, including how God changes sinners.
God's relationship with humankind started with God, promising Abraham to make him the father of God's chosen people. God told him that the chosen people would be used to bring God's blessings among all nations on the earth. Why did God enter into this covenant with Abraham after Adam and Eve rebelled against him? Because God did not want to abandon his children to the destructive power of Satan. Like a parent who cannot disown a child gone astray, God could not reject those who had left him. He wanted to give them a chance to repent and return to the original relationship with God.
Redemption refers to the price you have to pay to get back what is yours, but you lost it because of your fault. For instance, if your car has ever been impounded for being parked illegally, you may have had to pay a hefty fine to get it back. Biblical redemption is the price God paid to get us back for his purpose. He didn't have to do it, but he did it anyway. God's redemption refers to undoing the effect of sin on all humankind. It means that you and I don't have to die for our sins because God paid that price through the death of his Son. In other words, our sins have been forgiven. However, we sinners do not know that the debt has been paid until the Holy Spirit walks into our lives and offers us the full salvation.
After the Fall, humans found themselves cut off from God and subject to misery, pain, and death. In order to draw them back to himself, God laid down the basis for their acceptance in the redemptive ministry of Jesus Christ. The death of Christ on the cross obtained on behalf of all people, born or unborn yet, was all that was necessary to make them acceptable to God. In other words, long before we were born and before we could desire to be saved, Jesus died for us, securing a position that we would be later able to claim for ourselves. Through Christ, we are given a new position, a new standing in relation to God. The sentence of death that fell upon humans of their own choices now can be lifted because Jesus died on their behalf. The atonement required by the moral order is, therefore, achieved through redemption.
Salvation is the saving of the soul from sin and its consequences. Salvation must start with redemption or forgiveness of sin. Therefore, initial Salvation refers to a person being saved before God, which includes being forgiven of sins and being spared from perdition. But God doesn't stop here. Additionally, he offers the protected person the chance to be regenerated in the image of Christ, to receive eternal life, and become a child of God. God offers Salvation according to his perfect plan and purpose for mankind. He desires that all people who know what Jesus did for them receive salvation. However, there are some who do not want to know, and others who simply reject the good news even after they hear it. God makes salvation available, but it is up to the individual people to accept it or reject it. Based on biblical evidence, we must maintain that although all humans matter to God, not all will be saved. God had decided even before the beginning of time that only people of faith would enter eternal life.
God changing sinners into saints is another theological concept difficult to grasp. Why would God want to waste more time with sinners? Wasn't it enough that sinners received a new standing in relationship with him? If God wanted to make saints, why not make them from godly people who would be more inclined to accept the challenge? Bible teaches us, however, that God wanted to change the sinners themselves, meaning changing their actual beings, their inner selves, their character. This process of changing sinners is a very long one and has three phases: calling, regeneration, and sanctification.
In the Scriptures, we read that believers are persons who have been called by God, according to his purpose, to belong to Christ and become saints. Believers who respond to God's call experience a divine visitation. Through the Holy Spirit, God enters their lives and works a miracle by giving them a fresh start with their lives. In the Bible, this new beginning is called the "new birth" or regeneration. Regeneration means being reborn of God's spirit and being renewed daily with a fresh supply of faith. Following regeneration is a process of profound change that Scriptures describe as sanctification.
Sanctification, in its simplest definition, is to become Christlike. The New Testament teachings on sanctification suggest that it is a life-long process; there are no shortcuts to it. It also teaches that God is involved in the task. As sinners turn back to God through faith, a two-way relationship is established between them and God. Believers work out their salvation while God is at work within them. God's involvement in the task of rebuilding the human character is indispensable. Conversely, without human cooperation, there can be no sanctification.
Sanctification implies discarding the old natural element in us and replacing it with the richness of the new life in Jesus Christ. It means that our whole being is now saturated with the faith of Christ. We can affirm that sanctification begins with the new birth and goes on for a lifetime and even beyond it. It will eventually come to term but not before the end of time. The point of termination of sanctification is the final resurrection, or the second coming of Christ.
REDEMPTION AND SALVATION
ONLY THROUGH THE GRACE OF GOD
The Doctrine of the Church
The purpose of this section is to survey God's vision for the church. First, I will consider the development of the idea of church throughout biblical history. Then, I will review the tasks assigned to the church, namely its ministries.
God willed the making of the church before the world's foundation, thus showing the importance that God attached to the community in his eternal purpose. Of all of his creation, the making of community had primacy. But what is the church? According to the Bible, the church is a community made of believers who unite for worship and service to God. The making of the church has three historical phases: the primacy, the centrality, and the finality.
The church's primacy
The church's primacy means that the church was at the forefront of God's designs from the very beginning. God created Adam and Eve to "become one flesh" in a community of oneness. Before the Fall, the oneness in the Garden was a microcosmic anticipation of the oneness that the church was intended to bring about. It was then extended and multiplied into the "one body" relationship of multitudes of people from every nation, all tribes and tongues.
The church's centrality
The centrality of the church is evident as we survey the making of it in the Old Covenant and through the teachings of Jesus Christ. In the early times, God blessed Abraham and promised to make him the "Father of many nations," all of whom were to become God's people. They included not only Jews but also Gentiles, who would come to know God. For this reason, all prophets of the Old Covenant had foretold the days of the church. Several thousand years later, the whole ministry of Jesus Christ was devoted to the preparation and launching of the new community of believers. He came and preached peace to the Jews and Gentiles alike in order to unite them in the oneness of faith, and to establish the church community on the foundation of apostles and prophets. Jesus ordered his followers to go and make disciples among all nations and to be his witnesses to the end of the earth and ages. Jesus made it possible for ordinary men and women to be transformed into kingdom-builders as members of the new community. Initially, Jesus called the apostle Peter the "rock on which I will build my church".
The church's finality
The finality of the church is the belief that only the church will survive the present order and remain for God's eternal kingdom. According to Paul, God's final purpose is for the church to become the supreme expression of his wisdom for the whole universe to behold forever and ever. Thus, the church is not only the most important thing that God is doing in history, but the church is the only thing that will last through earthly time and eternity.
The ministries of the church is evident as we survey the making of it in the Old Covenant and through the teachings of Jesus Christ. In the early times, God blessed Abraham and promised to make him the "Father of many nations," all of whom were to become God's people. They included not only Jews but also Gentiles, who would come to know God. For this reason, all prophets of the Old Covenant had foretold the days of the church. Several thousand years later, the whole ministry of Jesus Christ was devoted to the preparation and launching of the new community of believers. He came and preached peace to the Jews and Gentiles alike in order to unite them in the oneness of faith and to establish the church community on the foundation of apostles and prophets. Jesus ordered his followers to go and make disciples among all nations and to be his witnesses to the end of the earth and ages. Jesus made it possible for ordinary men and women to be transformed into kingdom-builders as members of the new community. Initially, Jesus called the apostle Peter the
Conversion is a personal transaction between God and individual seekers, with believers and the church acting as facilitators. This is the task of evangelism.
Compassion is the sympathetic concern for the sufferings or misfortunes of others. Scripture teaches that we are to "do good to all people" to reflect the love of God for humankind. This means to feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, shelter the homeless, clothe the makes, take care of the sick, and visit this in prison. One deed of mercy done in the name of Christ speaks more forcefully of his love than a dozen sermons preached from the pulpit.
Confrontation is the ministry of the church regarding personal and collective sin. There are numerous examples in the Old and New Testaments about righteous people confronting powerful people, government, or organizations that sin. Jesus himself denounced political and religious leaders for their deceit and selfish abuse of public institutions. Today, more than ever, God has something vital to say about how communities and institutions conduct their affairs. Our secularized society desperately needs such guidance, and Christians are in a unique position to communicate God's moral and ethical commands to the world.
THE CHURCH WILL LAST TO
THE END OF EARTHLY TIMES
AND THROUGH ETERNITY
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Useful links: Moody Bible Institute Vatican