reFUNCTIONation suggestion # 17 : Say “you are saved” instead of “you need to be saved.”

imageThis is another one of those suggestions I would ask you to read fully and thoroughly before you label me or curse me. And I would even go so far as to say this is not a matter of semantics. It is a matter of boasting in the cross as well as delivering the Truth of Jesus in the tone and skin of grace (as we focused on yesterday).

I would suggest to you that those who consider themselves “churched” need to rethink what we declare regarding salvation.

Growing up, I heard many traveling evangelists dogmatically declare, “YOU NEED TO BE SAVED!!!” Theologians argue passionately about those who are saved and whether we have a choice to be saved and how old someone has to be in order to understand salvation. People state, “I walked an aisle and prayed a prayer when I was a kid,” but then they questioned their sincerity and wondered, “Was I actually saved?” Even as recently as yesterday, I heard a Baptist college professor state, “When I was saved 42 years ago…”

What if the declaration of the Gospel of Jesus should NOT be “YOU NEED TO BE SAVED?” What if when the church declares and demonstrates the Gospel of Jesus, it is instead a declaration that “YOU ARE SAVED!!!”

In the context of the reFUNCTIONation of those who consider themselves “churched” clothing their declarations of Truth in the tone and skin of grace, let’s first ask (1) Is “YOU ARE SAVED” true? AND (2) How is that declaration “truth and grace” compared to “YOU NEED TO BE SAVED?”

Is “YOU ARE SAVED” true?

Jesus said in John 3:17, “For God did not send His Son into the world that He might condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.” Scholars of the New Testament affirm that the Scriptures speak of “salvation” in three tenses – have been saved, are being saved, will be saved.

Simply put, we have been saved because of Jesus, and because of His finished work alone (Ephesians 1:3-14 and 2:4-10). We are being saved in the sense that we are living in the security of what Jesus has already done as well as the reality of what He has already done being worked in and out of us (Philippians 2:12-18). We will be saved when Christ returns to usher us into the fullness of His glory (Colossians 3:1-4) (oh yeah, and Revelation).

Jesus asserted:

“I assure you: Anyone who hears My word and believes Him who sent Me has eternal life and will not come under judgment but has passed from death to life.” 
(John 5:24 HCSB)

Jesus declared:

“It is finished!”
(John 19:30 HCSB)

Paul wrote:

So then, as through one trespass there is condemnation for everyone, so also through one righteous act there is life-giving justification for everyone. For just as through one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so also through the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous. The law came along to multiply the trespass. But where sin multiplied, grace multiplied even more so that, just as sin reigned in death, so also grace will reign through righteousness, resulting in eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. 
(Romans 5:18-21 HCSB)

Therefore, no condemnation now exists for those in Christ Jesus, because the Spirit’s law of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. 
(Romans 8:1-2 HCSB)

But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love that He had for us, made us alive with the Messiah even though we were dead in trespasses. You are saved by grace! Together with Christ Jesus He also raised us up and seated us in the heavens, so that in the coming ages He might display the immeasurable riches of His grace through His kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For you are saved by grace through faith, and this is not from yourselves; it is God’s gift — not from works, so that no one can boast. 
(Ephesians 2:4-9 HCSB)

The words are literally penned by Paul in the Ephesians passage – YOU ARE SAVED!!! The language of the New Testament indicates this declaration as a present reality. So, yes, “YOU ARE SAVED” is true.

But how does shifting our salvation declaration language reFUNCTION us to be the church as Jesus intended?

How is the declaration “YOU ARE SAVED” truth and grace compared to “YOU NEED TO BE SAVED?”

Because YOU ARE SAVED is a “truth and grace” declaration, whereas “YOU NEED TO BE SAVED” is not. If we want to get technical here, the declaration “you need to be saved” is not a Biblically true statement at all. Why? Because it does not even communicate the Truth that Jesus has saved and is saving and will save. In fact, it places the onus on us, which clearly the Scriptures assert is an impossibility. If I need to be saved after what Jesus already accomplished, then I am belittling the work of the cross.

“YOU ARE SAVED” is the news of Truth and Grace. “YOU NEED TO BE SAVED” is not.

If you are stuck on the tradition of declaring “you need to be saved,” maybe at least consider rewording it to something like “please believe that Jesus saves.” The declaration might be “Will you believe that you are saved by grace?” But let’s not belittle the before-time-began plan to both create and re-create humanity through the already-finished work of the rugged cross and the empty tomb.

In conclusion, if I declare to someone, “YOU ARE SAVED,” how should they respond? Is licentiousness okay? “Great, then I can now do whatever I want!” Paul rebuked that kind of taking grace for granted with a “may it never be!!!”

What should we say then? Should we continue in sin so that grace may multiply? Absolutely not! How can we who died to sin still live in it? Or are you unaware that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? Therefore we were buried with Him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too may walk in a new way of life. For if we have been joined with Him in the likeness of His death, we will certainly also be in the likeness of His resurrection. For we know that our old self was crucified with Him in order that sin’s dominion over the body may be abolished, so that we may no longer be enslaved to sin, since a person who has died is freed from sin’s claims. Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with Him, because we know that Christ, having been raised from the dead, will not die again. Death no longer rules over Him. For in light of the fact that He died, He died to sin once for all; but in light of the fact that He lives, He lives to God. 
(Romans 6:1-10 HCSB)

Faith is our response. Belief that Christ saved. Continuing to remember what He did and trust it was enough, even as we battle with recurring sin, believing Christ is saving us. Enduring belief, when we come to the end of a life of good AND evil still believing that Christ saved us demonstrating the goodness and grace of God.

We are saved by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8-10). Jesus told numerous people, “Your faith has made you well.” Jesus even declared that unbelief condemns (John 3:18). Therefore, our declaration of Grace and Truth, our communication of the Gospel, our introducing people to the Messiah Jesus might go something like this:

“You are saved! Jesus has saved us! His life and death and resurrection saved us from the death-sentence of knowing good AND evil. Saved us from a life of slavery to self and sin. Saved us into the goodness of the family of God. Saved us to now go and tell this good news that Jesus saves to any and all who will listen. YOU ARE SAVED!!! Do you BELIEVE?”

For while we were still helpless, at the appointed moment, Christ died for the ungodly. For rarely will someone die for a just person — though for a good person perhaps someone might even dare to die. But God proves His own love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us! Much more then, since we have now been declared righteous by His blood, we will be saved through Him from wrath. For if, while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, then how much more, having been reconciled, will we be saved by His life! And not only that, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ. We have now received this reconciliation through Him. 
(Romans 5:6-11 HCSB)

As Judah Smith preached:

Your greatest challenge is not your discipline, your devotion, your focus. Your greatest challenge is believing the Gospel. Could it be that there’s a God with a love so scandalous, so wide, so deep, so vast, so high, so expansive, so welcoming, so inclusive, [Who says], “Let Me have your sin.”

That theology professor was not “saved” 42 years ago any more than I was “saved” when I was six years old. We may have begun “believing” then. And we are still believing now. But the “good news,” the Grace and Truth, is that we were historically saved in April of 27 A.D., give or take a few years. The sincerity of our willing Savior to walk the Via Delarosa and pray “It is finished” trumps whether we were sincere when we walked an aisle and prayed “the sinners prayer.”

YOU ARE SAVED!!!

Will you believe? 

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5 thoughts on “reFUNCTIONation suggestion # 17 : Say “you are saved” instead of “you need to be saved.”

  1. pastorjimblogs April 22, 2015 / 7:15 pm

    Thank God that Jesus came into the world to save sinners! Amen to the truth that salvation is by God’s grace alone!

    One of the great things about the opening to Paul’s letter to the Ephesians is that we see the work of the Trinity in salvation. The Father ordains our salvation, choosing us and predestining us for adoption (Ephesians 1:4-5). The Son accomplishes our salvation, securing our redemption by his blood (Ephesians 1:7). The Spirit applies our salvation, sealing us until we acquire full possession of our promised inheritance (Ephesians 1:13-14). Each member of the Trinity works in a distinct way, all the while accomplishing one mission: the salvation of God’s people.

    All of this is God’s grace, and we can take no credit for it. With that said, it is important to note that our salvation is by grace through faith. Where there is no faith, there is no salvation. This is really important because this drives us to the biblical picture of conversion. And conversion is a wonderful thing!

    The beauty of conversion is set on display in Colossians 1:13-14, where we read that the Father “has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” For the Christians to whom Paul wrote (as well as every Christian since) there was a definitive before and after in their lives. The before: Life apart from Christ defined by darkness. The after: Life in Christ defined by light. There was a change that took place, and now they have gone from moving in one direction to moving in an entirely new direction.

    We have celebrated many of these kinds of stories in our church, people who are living testimonies to God’s ability to rescue sinners from darkness and bring them into the light. At one time these people were definitely not saved. But now they are, to the praise of God’s grace! These stories of conversion serve as a great encouragement to me and to our church family.

    In the biblical understanding of conversion I can say that I was saved when I turned from my sin and believed in Jesus. This celebrates God’s plan to adopt me, it turns the spotlight on what Jesus accomplished on the cross, and it highlights the life giving work of the Spirit. All of this demonstrates the truth that everything God plans he accomplishes.

    When we proclaim the gospel, we do so with the same urging that Paul used in 2 Corinthians 5:20. As an ambassador for Christ he urged people to be reconciled to God. He heralded the truth that they were in need of reconciliation, while at the same time heralding the truth that their need had been met by Jesus. Along with Paul we proclaim “Salvation is here, and his name is Jesus! His words “It is finished!” means he accomplished all this necessary to atone for our sins and make us righteous. Believe in him and you will be saved.”

    Thanks for your love for Jesus, Jason. And thanks for putting the challenge out there for us to think through these things. I pray that our dialogue will bring God glory!

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    • jasoncdukes April 23, 2015 / 2:01 pm

      Great stuff, Jim. Always grateful for your insights. To keep the conversation going, can I ask a question about one of your paragraphs? You wrote:

      “In the biblical understanding of conversion I can say that I was saved when I turned from my sin and believed in Jesus. This celebrates God’s plan to adopt me, it turns the spotlight on what Jesus accomplished on the cross, and it highlights the life giving work of the Spirit. All of this demonstrates the truth that everything God plans he accomplishes.”

      Is it true to the Biblical understanding that you were saved when you turned and believed, or would it not be true to the Scriptures to say that in the Biblical understanding of conversion you reconciled with God (as Paul wrote) or converted from attempting to make your dead self alive to an undeserved resurrected life in Christ when you believed that Jesus had done all that needed to be done to save you from your sin? Paul writes twice in three verses in EPHESIANS 2 “you are saved.” Isn’t he exhorting the Jews and Gentiles alike to believe this Father-begotten, Son-completed, Spirit-assured reality that they had been saved into God’s one family?

      That is what I am saying when I challenge us to declare “salvation is here” and “you are saved” rather than “you need to be saved”

      John 1:12-13 says the Father “begets” (in the Greek) us into His family. He initiates the being born again. Jesus completed the work of that being born again with the cross and empty tomb. He was first born from among the dead that we might be born again into His life. “No longer I who live.” Resurrection as Colossians 3:1-4 states has already happened to us now so that we can live eternal and see who we really are in Christ when He returns. Our “belief” is in the reality of having been born again in and through Christ. Jesus highlighted that belief challenging Nicodemus to believe what the Spirit wind was blowing into reality. We believe that Jesus already credited our ungodliness with His godliness (Romans 4:5). We believe we are saved, faith in the reality of having been born again through Christ. Which is why Jesus would tell Nicodemus that unbelief condemns.

      This is such good news! May all who hear the Gospel believe!

      it is always great to talk about it with you! 🙂

      Like

  2. pastorjimblogs April 23, 2015 / 4:41 pm

    Thanks for posting your reply, my friend. Here is my response…

    I may be misunderstanding you (my mistake if I am), but I believe your question makes my point. Here is the question you asked, with a couple of parts highlighted with capital letters:

    “Is it true to the Biblical understanding that you were saved WHEN YOU TURNED AND BELIEVED, or would it not be true to the Scriptures to say that in the Biblical understanding of conversion you reconciled with God (as Paul wrote) or converted from attempting to make your dead self alive to an undeserved resurrected life in Christ WHEN YOU BELIEVED that Jesus had done all that needed to be done to save you from your sin?”

    If I am reading your question correctly, then it looks as though you’re asking “Were you saved when you believed, or were you saved when you believed?” And I would certainly answer that question “Yes!” So if I am reading your question correctly, then we’re pretty much saying the same thing with some differing verbiage. Certainly not the first time you and I have found ourselves doing that, right? 🙂

    However if there is a difference to be pressed upon, I’ll offer some thoughts…

    This highlights the biblical truth that there are two things we must do to be saved: Repent and believe. This is what we read in Acts 2, when Peter concludes his sermon on the day of Pentecost. Upon hearing Peter’s words, the crowd is cut to the heart and ask Peter what they should do. Peter’s response to them is to repent and be baptized. This is also what we read in Acts 16, in the account of the Philippian jailer’s conversion. When the jailer asks Paul and Silas what he must do to be saved, the answer was that he must believe in the Lord Jesus. Repent and believe.

    The rhythm of repent/believe is further illustrated in Ephesians 2, where Paul declares to the believers that they have been saved. At one time they were dead in the trespasses and sins in which they once walked, but by God’s grace they have turned from the old life and come to faith in Jesus. Again, all of this is from God, who saved them as a gift of his grace.

    I believe John 1:12, Colossians 3:1-4 and Romans 4:5 all state the greatness of what happens to us at our conversion. At conversion we are made children of God, our lives are hidden with Christ, we are justified and we are counted righteous. The importance of these passages is that in them we see that the benefits and blessings of salvation belong to those who believe. They highlight the truth that something (everything!) changed for us at our conversion.

    And here again is where the gospel is so precious to us. Though we must repent and believe to be saved, our ability to do these things comes from God himself (Titus 3:4-7). In conversion we turn from sin and self and turn to Jesus, trusting that he did all that needs to be done to save us from our sins.

    In the spirit of continuing the discussion, a couple of questions for you: If Jesus completed the work of being born again with the cross and empty tomb, then am I already saved whether I believe or not? What does this say about the role of the Spirit in salvation?

    I echo your words, my friend. May all who hear the gospel believe!

    Like

    • jasoncdukes April 23, 2015 / 9:15 pm

      We do tend to semantically disagree but theologically agree. 🙂

      However, my question was not, “Were you saved when you believed, or were you saved when you believed?” Rather, it was, “Were you saved when you believed, or did you believe that you were saved?”

      What I am suggesting has hurt evangelicals for years in how we share the Gospel was the declaration that people need to be saved and won’t be until they believe. You said in your reply we have to do something to be saved. You did not mean that, certainly, because I know you beleieve Jesus did all that needed to be done for us to be saved. We simply believe that we are saved, as Peter stated. We repent and believe that He has saved us.

      To have to repent and believe in order to be saved contradicts “He did all that needs to be done to save us from our sin.” To repent from our wrong thinking / direction and believe that we are saved does not. The former implies that salvation is not a reality begotten by God. The latter supports our conversion into the reality of having been saved. The former boasts in Christ plus my repentance and belief. The latter boasts in the cross.

      Most people never meant to communicate that with the language “you need to be saved.” But we did. And declaring the Gospel that we are saved then asking “Do you believe?” is truly “good news” that won’t leave people later wondering about their sincerity of belief when they “prayed the prayer” but allows them to grow in the sustaining Truth of their Gospel identity and security.

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  3. pastorjimblogs April 24, 2015 / 12:51 am

    Repenting and believing only implies that salvation is not begotten by God if my ability to repent and believe comes from me. But that ability does not come from me, but rather from God. Only God can save me, and the means He has decreed to do that is through saving faith. This faith is my turning to Jesus, trusting that he did all that needs to be done to save me from my sins.

    Wayne Grudem has been helpful for me in understanding this. In writing about the response to the gospel call, Grudem states “Once God has summoned through an effective call and changed a person’s heart through regenration, the necessary response is repentance and faith. But since the gospel call is a personal call, it requires a personal response. This willing, personal, individual response to the gospel call, in which a person sincerely repents of his sins and places his trust in Christ for salvation, is called conversion.”

    Amen to your desire to see people rest in Christ, rather than worrying over whether or not they prayed the prayer well enough. I’m with you, brother. Christ is our righteousness, and our identity is in him!

    Like

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