19th January 2024

Ben Sternke 'offers'



"Why Salvation is Not An Insurance Contract"

The biblical idea of righteousness isn't so much about moral performance for God as it is mutual participation with God.

Becoming "holy," then has nothing to do with gritting our teeth and squeezing out some good deeds.
No, holiness has to do with increasingly merging our life with the "flow" of God's life.

We do this now, in the present, as we become aware of the ways we are living, cut off from the Spirit.

Just as "righteousness" is about participation, so is salvation.
This is against the grain of our inherited assumptions, doesn't it?
I think most of us tend to think of salvation as a contract for entry into heaven.
We fulfill some stipulations (confess you're a sinner, trust in Christ for forgiveness) and expect God to come through on his promise (I'll let you into heaven).
Sign on the dotted line and you've "received" salvation (payable upon death).

Then what?
Essentially we're stuck in a holding pattern until we die, right?
Just try not to violate the terms of your contract before you can use it.
It's essentially insurance against calamity.

But "insurance contract salvation" doesn't really do justice to the way the New Testament talks about it.
I'm think specifically of Paul's oft-used phrase "in Christ."
The normative description of following Jesus is that a person is "in Christ".

Being "in Christ" means embracing a way of life that can be imitated.
A spiritual veil over hearts is taken away "in Christ".
If a person is "in Christ" we see that new creation is here!.
Those "in Christ" have (now!) been blessed with every spiritual blessing.
I could go on.

According to the New Testament, being "in Christ" is not just having your name on the list.
It's a present experience of God's power flowing into and through you.
It brings about a new reality in your life right now.
This is salvation as participation.
We actually "participate in the divine nature" as incredible as that seems.

We participate in our salvation day-by-day, rather than just "receive" it as a future promise to look forward to.
Salvation isn't an insurance contract, it's an ongoing, immersive, relational encounter with God.
Salvation is a relational covenant that starts now, not a requisite contract for later.

In other words, Jesus isn't just God's "fix" for sin.
Even if humanity had never sinned, Christ would still have had to come as a man in order to bring us into union with God.
Because God and humankind are now one in Christ, we who are "in Christ" can become one with God: God sharing his love and power with humanity in covenant relationship.

The amazing surprise of the New Testament is that, because of the resurrection and ascension of Christ, this all starts now.
This is the gospel, then.
In Jesus Christ, we can participate in the divine nature.
It starts now and continues into eternity.
This is salvation, and it's available to everyone.

Christ is humanity made new, he is the place where human nature now resides, he is the new Adam who includes all human beings within himself, he is the oldest brother of many adopted siblings, all of whom now share in his status.

Let's pay attention today, and thus participate in the divine nature, practicing our salvation.

This is an edited version.
The full article and Bible references are avaiable on request

Ben Sternke
is an Episcopal priest, leadership coach, and writer living in Indianapolis.
He's been writing about faith, church, and culture since 2005, because writing helps him process what he is learning.


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