Putting amazing back into grace – part 5
Before we begin to look in earnest at Chapter 7 of ‘Putting amazing back into grace’, I would like to summarise briefly anything you may have missed since our last blog on Chapter 4 -. Grace before time (See blog post http://www.firwoodchurch.com/blog/putting-amazing-back-into-grace-part-4/). Hopefully you have still all been reading along. If not, now is the time to catch up!
If Chapter 4 looks at the doctrine of election itself, then Chapter 5 looks at how that doctrine helps us to live the Christian life by being humble, allowing our worship to be focused in the right direction and giving us an assured hope and certainty of our place in the gospel story. Chapter 6 then talks about how this is all Christ’s work and does not depend on any effort on our part. God became man and dwelt among us – he descended, we do not ascend to Him.
With this in mind, we arrive at Chapter 7. If you thought that the doctrine of election was difficult to get your head around, then this chapter will drive you crazy! The doctrine of definite atonement (Satisfaction made, that has a specific intention that is neither vague nor general – Horton’s definition)— a hard and controversial teaching that I will not be able to do justice to in this short blog, so even more incentive to read the book!
Horton starts by quoting John 1:29 ; ‘Look, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world’. One of the verses used to affirm a belief in Universalism; a teaching that states that we will all eventually be saved. So, what does it actually mean when we say that Jesus is the ‘Saviour of the world’? Horton explains;
Christ takes away the sins of the world (1 John 2:2)
Christ accomplishes the restoration of creation in the world (Romans 8:22-23)
Salvation is no longer limited to Israel but encompasses all nations in the world. (Genesis 12:3, 17:4; )
The Bible states that we as believers are a ‘chosen people’ and a ‘holy nation’. The doctrine of election that we have previously touched upon upholds this. How is it possible then that God chooses to save some and at the same time save the whole of the world?
The message of the gospel is not universalism, but it is universal. Romans 8:19 states that the whole of creation waits for the sons of God to be revealed yet elsewhere in scripture, as Horton expounds; ‘we recognise that Jesus saves his people from their sins (Matt 1:21). Both the world and people in the world are actually saved. Hence, Christ is the Saviour of the world and the Saviour of the body, that is, the church’.
Horton poses some hard questions as he looks deeper into scripture to try and reconcile this seeming paradox;
Did Christ die for everyone?
Ephesians 1: 4 – ‘For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight.’ God had a definite purpose which Christ accomplished through the power of the Holy Spirit. Christ’s definite atonement was made for the sins of His chosen people.
Does God love everyone?
Ephesians 5:25 – ‘Husband love your wives….‘
God cares for the world, but has specific concern and love for his own children. Christ is compelled and committed to those he loves. What assurance that he will not let us go!
What do these hard teachings mean for us? How can we apply them as we take the gospel message to a lost and hurting world? Horton states ‘Christ dies specifically for the purpose of saving people, not just making the salvation of everyone possible.’ We have a certain hope in Christ’s redemptive work. We can be sure we are justified and saved from God’s wrath if we believe in Him. We are reconciled and saved not ‘potentially’ but ‘definitely’. We are not chosen because we are special or because of anything we have done, therefore we do not keep the good news to ourselves. God is forming a new Israel that knows no boundaries.
The harsh reality is that those who believe will be saved and those who do not will be lost. Saying ‘God loves you’ in a bland and pithy way does nothing to help those who are already condemned.
Horton states ‘The person to whom we are witnessing is not potentially saved; that person is actually lost.’ This truth that they are lost without Christ should instil in people the urgency to trust in Him and should instil in believers the urgent need to spread the gospel message.
Romans 8:1 ‘There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus’.