This 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).
“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)
“It is finished!”
(John 19:30 HCSB)
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?