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Friday, January 11, 2008

Resurrection or Conversion?

What is the main focus of Paul’s soteriology, redemption-accomplished or applied? Well, is it the gospel or conversion? Coming at this from a slightly different angle – Who is the central Actor in the drama of redemption, the Holy Spirit or the Christ whom the Holy Spirit reveals?

Clearly the gospel is the central theme of the New Testament and consequently Paul’s theology. In particular, that Christ is raised from the dead, with all its implications, is the primary message of Paul. Naturally, therefore, when it comes to the application of redemption, Paul doesn’t abandon his teaching on the resurrection in order to preach conversion. Rather, Paul turns our attention to the reality of the believer’s existential union with the resurrected and ascended Crucified One. {Unless there is serious error that must be corrected, Paul’s emphasis is not on how one appropriates Christ but rather on the ramifications of being in Christ already.}

Not justification through faith alone (through an alien righteousness) but intimate union with Christ, which envelopes the glorious reality of justification, is Paul’s message to the church. Properly understood, it is all the benefits in this life that proceed from effectual calling, as identified in a sound formulation of the ordo salutis, Paul has in view when he expounds redemption-applied; not in some atomistic, compartmentalized sense but in all its fullness, occurring all at once through one baptism into Christ. The picture Paul paints is as poetic as it is profound. Notwithstanding, certainly Paul distinguishes (for instance) sanctification from justification but he never separates the two from union with the resurrected and ascended Christ. It is because of this, I believe, that Paul does not detract from the eschatological implications and sheer profundity of the believer’s participation in the first resurrection and age to come. It’s not that Paul was not a systematic theologian. He was. Yet Paul had a more pressing message to deliver, from which other theological intricacies can (and should) be derived, but never at the expense of laying hold of the already-not yet reality in Christ that is so prominent in Paul’s soteriology.

Paul’s soteriology is eschatological in nature, for when was the new age inaugurated but at the resurrection. Accordingly, when one is united to Christ by the instrument of faith, he is united with the firstborn from the dead, thereby entering into the new creation – Christ’s body, the church. When the many brothers are raised in Christ (separated by time in a single harvest), they are made partakers of the new age not only in and through but with Christ their brother, Lord and forerunner. Accordingly, Paul does not see glorification as the only aspect of the believer’s eschatological-salvation. Rather, Paul sees the entire process of salvation (and it is a process!), as entering into and living within the already inaugurated age that awaits its final consummation in Christ, the first fruits of those who are asleep.

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Jason said...

Nice done, brother. I concur. There is a new book coming out by Mark Garcia on this subject that looks very interesting:


risen_soul said...

While I agree that sanctification is an ongoing process, I disagree with you that salvation itself is a process. Salvation is a one time event that occurs when a believer is justified by God's grace through faith. Justification is a one time event.

True believers will exhibit fruit to be sure and they will walk in good works as they were created to do (Eph. 2:10) but salvation is not a proccess, and certainly not one that is dependent upon human actions.

Ronald W. Di Giacomo said...


In your comment you distinguish salvation from justification. What do you believe salvation is, and do you agree that we were saved, are being saved and will be saved? Or, what does it mean to "work out one's salvation" (with fear and trembling)?


risen_soul said...

I do not intend, sorry if it came across that way, to make a distinction between justification and salvation. I see Justification as synonymous with salvation.

Depending upon what you mean by saved, being saved and will be saved, I may agree with that statement. Obviously I am not perfect, God is refining me by His word and His Spirit (sanctification). And God will one day glorify me and make me free from sin. So if you want to line up justification, sanctification and glorification with saved, saving and will be saved, then I agree.

But I simply mean to clarify that a believer is indeed saved by God's grace through faith and there is a point in time when a person goes from lost to saved. It's non reversable, it's Done by God's power regenerqating a person and granting them faith.

I believe that when God gives a person life and faith that the righteousness of Christ is imputed to the sinner. The sinner is counted righteous in Christ just as abraham was justified by faith.

We are to test ourselves to make sure that we are in the faith, I think this is what it means to work out our salvation with fear and trembling. Good works and the fruit of the Spirit are a sign of a regenerated person.

Perhaps we are on the same page more than not, but I was uncomfortable with your word choice in this post.

take care.


Ronald W. Di Giacomo said...

Two points Jacob.

You originally noted that "Salvation is a one time event that occurs when a believer is justified by God's grace through faith." Then you wrote "I see Justification as synonymous with salvation."

Not to be difficult but if I put those two statements together I get something like: "Justification is a one time time event that occurs when a believer is justified by God's grace through faith." Again, I'm not trying to be difficult. I'm truly not. I'm just trying to understand your meaning on your terms.

At the very least, Scritpure talks about salvation as a process, which is why Paul tells believers to work out their salvation... Even apart from biblical language, systematic language addresses the ordo salutis, which is the order of salvation - which includes sanctification. Accordingly, both biblical and systematic theology recognizes "salvation" as a process. I'm not sure why, then, you would have been uncomfortable with my choice of words since I assume you are familiar with the "ordo" and the Philippian 2:13 text. In any case, I do trust we share the same theology and that we are just expressing it differently.



Ronald W. Di Giacomo said...

Thanks Jason. As you know from me, some of the themes that emanated from Dr. Letham's pulpit were Trinity, Incarnation, Union with Christ, Vicarious-Substitution, Resurrection and Ascension, Inauguration and Consummation, and Sacraments, just to name a few. If one were even half-way paying attention, they prospered in the Lord under his ministry. I know I didn’t even begin to plumb the depths of what this servant had to offer but I do believe I could have taken another forty years of his ministry. I am exceedingly grateful that God lent him to Emmanuel for the time I was there. If I were more capable in this area, I’d write other blog entries having to do with what I gleaned from him. Am I being like Elizabeth Bennet in this regard, “unwilling to speak unless [I] expect to say something that will amaze the whole room”? I trust not, otherwise I wouldn't blog at all I suppose. :)

Yours in Christ,