Tuesday, July 26, 2011

What Fell and What Stands to Be Restored?

I've had some deeply meaningful conversations since starting my Doctor of Ministry program. Some of the feedback that has come back to me by close confidants and friends has been that, in my preaching, I have been so emphasizing the corporate dimensions of salvation, that perhaps some of the importance of individual salvation and assurance have not been emphasized as perhaps should be. Of course, this is not my desire to minimize the importance of our salvation, rather to "fill it out" so we see just how HUGE the work of the Cross is. Schaeffer in The God Who Is There gives a nice explanation of how to hold the corporate dimensions of salvation along with the importance of our individual salvation:

As orthodox evangelicals we have often made the mistake of stopping with individual salvation. Historically the word Christian has meant two things. First, the word Christian defines a person who has accepted Christ as Savior. This is decidedly an individual thing. But there is a second consideration. While it is true that there is an individual salvation, and this is the beginning of the Christian life, yet nevertheless individual salvation should show itself also in corporate relationships. This is the Bible’s clear teaching concerning the Church and what we find, in some measure, as we consider the Church at its strongest through the ages.

When man fell, various divisions took place. The first and basic division is between man who has revolted and God. All other divisions flow from that. We are separated from God by our guilt- true moral guilt. Hence we need to be justified upon the basis of the finished substitutionary work of the Lord Jesus Christ. Yet it is quite plain from the Scriptures and from general observation that the separations did not stop with the separation of man from God. For, secondly, man was separated from himself. This gives rise to the psychological problems of life. Thirdly, man was separated from other men, leading to sociological problems of life. Fourthly, man was separated from nature.

According to the teaching of the Scriptures, the finished work of the Lord Jesus Christ is meant eventually to bring healing to each of these divisions: healing which will be perfect in every aspect when Christ comes again in history in the future.

In justification, there is a relationship which is already perfect. When the individual accepts Christ as his Savior, on the basis of the finished work of Christ, God as Judge declares that his guilt is gone immediately and forever. With regard to the other separations, it is plain from the scriptural teaching and from the struggles of God’s people throughout the best years of the Church that in this present life the blood of Christ is meant to bring substantial healing now. Individual salvation comes with justification, and guilt is gone at once. Then comes a future day when my body will be raised from the dead, and other separations will be healed just as completely. Now, in the present life, when men can observe us, there is to be substantial healing of these other divisions. Substantial is the right word to use because it carries with it two ideas. Firstly, it means that it is not yet perfect. Secondly, it means that there is reality, pp. 164-165.

I love Schaeffer's word "substantial" here as it means that healing in relationships, in the Church and a powerful witness of the power of Christ can be reasonably expected among us, even if the Church is comprised of a bunch of ragamuffins who have a very difficult time getting it together. "Substantial" is a good word; I also like the word "proximate." This side of glory, we will never be perfectly what we are meant to be; however, we might proximately be so.

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