More Than Justification By Faith Alone

11:50 AM

"The Virgin Mary Consoles Eve," by Sister Grace Remington,
Our Lady of the Mississippi Abbey, Dubuque, IA
Is this not the most beautiful image ever?

I wrote a little about my struggles with different theologies on justification and how that makes figuring out what a Christian is and does incredibly tricky. While we're celebrating the atonement and Christ's resurrection this weekend, I thought I'd share some of my recent conclusions on salvation.

I realized that most of my confusion came from stopping short of God's intentions in saving us. The events of Easter did three things:

1. Christ's death unseated the devil from ruling over the world and its sin-stained inhabitants.
2. Christ's atonement provides the cure for Adam's infinite sin passed on to us, his children.
3. Christ as the human translation of the divine life regenerates His church by forgiving our sins and giving us the ability to love again. 

This means that our response as Christ's church is threefold as well:

1. We begin with the obedience and gratitude of slaves, fearing condemnation, bewildered that Christ set us free.
2. We continue into the obedience and gratitude of mercenaries delighted in our ticket out of hell and into heaven.
3. We deepen into the love of of a bride, totally overcome by desire. This passion crowds out the need for concepts like obedience and gratitude because intimate love has been perfected.
(These concepts come directly from Bernard of Clairvaux's writings, namely The Steps of Humility and Against the Errors of Peter Abelard. I highly recommend him!)

What are the implications of this? It means that salvation is not merely justification, not merely legal language. It means that salvation is not merely about sanctification, about purification, about sin and obedience. It means that ultimately salvation is about participating in the divine life, one with the Triune God through our unity as a church with Christ. 

In the end, it's not about tallying up good deeds and erasing sin -- though we must talk about those things because that's our biggest hindrance to love and unity. In the end, it's not about obedience and gratitude -- desire eclipses the struggle to obey, and gratitude is a small, small part of desire that cannot wrap its arms around the gracious life Christ offers us.

As an evangelical Protestant, I stopped short of salvation's mystery. I neatly wrapped it up with justification by faith alone: "Christ clothed me with His righteousness. I do good works and pursue righteousness out of gratitude. The End." He has saved me from far more than His wrath. He has done more than wrap my sick soul in Christ's righteousness and leave me there to try to be grateful and fight off my heart's plague.

The word salvation comes from the Latin salvare, which means to make safe or healthy. We need rescuing from the grip of sin and into the presence of God (justification), yes. But God's primary concern was not providing an atonement that would appease His wrath and allow us into His presence. His primary concern was healing us from our terminal sin and bringing us into His life. 

What have been your recent thoughts on salvation this Easter weekend?

You Might Also Like

10 impressions

  1. Such curiosity!

    (And yes, the painting is lovely.)

    For me, salvation is a mighty process. It is about obedience. It is about love. It is about holiness and sanctification.

    But all those things melt and mesh together for what I think is the primary purpose of salvation: That we would know God and that we would live life in a joyous freedom and abandon in Christ that points others to Him.

    As Oswald Chambers has said (in paraphrase), salvation isn't about personal holiness. It isn't about good works and it isn't about perfecting oneself. It's about Jesus. And as we look more and more to the real, living, near, person of Jesus we become more like Him and as we become more like Him we point others toward Him.

    Of course, as a staunch-y Anabaptist-leaning Christian, good works have a special place in my heart. They are important. They are the mark of Christ in us. Without fruit the tree is dead.

    But I have learned, over the course of my studious, type-A, black-and-white life that life/salvation isn't about that. And the freedom/encouragement/deepening walk with Christ that has come with that realization makes me want to know (and make Him known) more and more.

    And that is my Sunday School lesson for the day.


    1. I love that you added the aspect of bringing others with us as we look to Jesus. I was going to write a post on how the church as Christ's body brings everybody into this passionate pursuit of Christ, so I'm glad you added that last piece of the puzzle!! Happy Easter, friend!!

  2. In the picture above, note the snake. Excellent Mariology in that ikon. :) As to the rest,well written and amen.

    “It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”

    ― C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory, and Other Addresses

    1. The snake was the last thing I noticed about the picture....and when I saw it, I was just blown away. I love this picture so much! And I love that Lewis quote too. :) Thanks for finally commenting on my blog, Evan! I can't wait to discuss this post with you in person. :)

    2. Love the C.S Lewis quote... (Love C.S. Lewis...)

  3. I love that quotation! Well chosen.

  4. This may be the first (or one of a very few) theological posts of yours that I do not understand at all. Pretty much none of this makes any sense to me. Sorry. :-(

    On Easter, I went to church and listened to a sermon on a type of "resurrection" that is available to all people, Christian and non-Christian, and how every ending is also a beginning and every beginning is also an ending. Then, with my family, we did what is becoming an Easter tradition for us: watched Jesus Christ Superstar (the 2001 film based on the 2000 London revival). My daughter loves the musical, though perhaps not quite as much as I do. This year it sparked lots of good discussion about why Judas is considered damned when his actions are necessary for the sacrifice to occur and may even be orchestrated by God. This reminded me of the Gospel of Judas and how I probably ought to read the popular translation of it, not because I think it provides any actual information, but because I am interested in the radically different perspective I assume it has on Jesus and Judas.

    I know I am a heathen, but I am never more aware of that fact than around Easter.


    1. I'm not sure how to respond to this, to be honest, but I wish the best for you as you pursue truth!! Those are some tough questions to ask and seek answers for.

  5. I don't have any thoughts to add to what you said, although I appreciated the post. :) What I really just wanted to say is that picture is beautiful! Wow.

    This weekend, I read the first chapter of John MacArthur's book "Twelve Extraordinary Women," the chapter about Eve (well-timed, though unplanned). It nearly brought me to tears, and ministered so much to my heart. If you haven't ever read it (or even if you have), I would highly recommend that chapter--such a heart-wrenching, beautiful picture of redemption and hope, especially as we have meditated on Christ and His cross this weekend. :)

    1. I would love to hear his thoughts on Eve. What a weight, to be the first sinner...and what a joy, to be the first one offered hope. Thanks for the recommendation! I might just have to add that to my summer reading list. :)


Hit me with your best thought! I'm very interested in your unique perspective. If you'd like to discuss things in private, feel free to email me! :)