Your Turn to Post Revisited

Posted: April 30, 2007 in Theology

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The Transfiguration

What are the essentials for salvation? Here was my answer…

There is no other name under heaven by which people can be saved but “Jesus.” Whoever calls in faith upon his name can be saved by his grace. There will not be anyone in heaven that is not washed in the blood of the Lamb. He is the only gate for the sheep. No one comes to the Father except through Christ Jesus.

No one is saved apart from Christ, but we ought not to think that someone will be eternally damned simply because they never heard the name “Jesus,” lest all of those who knew God before Christ’s appearing be consigned to hell simply for lack of this knowledge. All who were ever saved were so because they were rightly related to the person of Christ, though they knew not the name Jesus—just as Hebrews 11:26 teaches that Moses regarded disgrace “for the sake of Christ” as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt. 1 Corinthians 10:4 teaches that the Exodus Israelites drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and “that rock was Christ.” John 1 clearly demonstrates that the Genesis account was interpreted by Christians as involving Christ in the very act of creation. This Christological interpretation of the Old Testament implies that all revelation is Christian revelation, and anywhere and anytime anybody responds to God, they are responding to Christ.

Enoch, Abram, Melchizedek, Moses, and all other saints were understood as “proto-Christians” by the apostolic Church—and present day Christians are understood to be in fundamental continuity with them as the people of God, and that whole people of God is redeemed only by Christ’s death and resurrection. Indeed, the whole Old Testament sacrificial system never paid for a single sin, but only pointed forward to the sacrifice of Christ, whose blood atoned for all sin. Those saved under that sacrificial system were not saved by the blood of bulls and goats, and they were not saved by works of the law, but exactly as we are, by grace through faith in Christ.

While assurance of salvation, certainty of forgiveness, the witness of the Spirit that we are the children of God, the consolation of the resurrection of Christ, and the Blessed Hope of his Parousia are the specific benefit of a those who accept the explicit apostolic preaching about Christ, nonetheless we cannot reasonably assume that someone who genuinely responds to God in the manner of Enoch or Melchizedek or Abraham is not likewise a kind of “proto-Christian” even as the ancients were.

What I am saying in no way takes away from the urgency of missions or evangelism—since Christ said that those who know the Father will accept him, we can be sure that if there is a rare person with “the faith of Enoch,” they will most certainly accept the Gospel of Christ and, like those disciples who had only received John’s baptism, then be filled with the Spirit and rejoicing, having the content and hope of their faith gloriously revealed. Nor am I in any way suggesting that all sincere people of other religions are already saved—or that they absolutely are not, for that matter. God knows his own.

“The road to destruction is broad, and many travel it; the path to life is narrow, and only a few find it.” “If it is hard for the righteous to be saved, what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?” Therefore I am only suggesting that it seems an entirely unbiblical assumption to exclude the possibility—indeed, the probability—that there are those, even if there are only several in the whole world in a given generation, with the faith of Melchizedek or Enoch or Abraham without the benefit of “apostolic light.” This does not, in my understanding, challenge the urgency of the Gospel, since most people are obviously headed for destruction and in grave need for us to implore them on Christ’s behalf, “Be reconciled to God!”

But God is just: responsibility implies the divinely granted ability to respond.

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