Christian Salvation: More and More Questions (Part 3)

Ted Grimsrud—February 10, 2012

In what sense should we think of Jesus as our savior? My cyber-friend Al Steiner has raised a series of challenging questions (scroll down for Al’s comments) of my account of salvation based on his careful reading of the Bible. Reflecting further on the questions Al raises will help me continue to think though what I want to say about salvation.

How is Jesus “instrumental” for salvation?

(1) Al concludes from John’s Gospel and the first letter of John that Jesus “is instrumental in the grace of God, purifying us, taking away our sin.” Key verses include John the Baptist’s declaration when he first sees Jesus that he is “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29) and these words: “the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin” (1 John 1:7).

On the face of it, at least, I don’t really see these assertions about Jesus’ role in salvation being in tension with what I am trying to say. So much depends on definitions—both of the problem Jesus is trying to resolve and the meanings of such key works as “takes away,” “sin(s),” “blood,” and “cleanses.”

First of all, I see no hint in these verses and their wider contexts that John is portraying Jesus’ saving work as in any way related to providing a necessary sacrifice that, in a way only it can, makes it possible for a wrathful/just/holy/honorable God to offer forgiveness that prior to that sacrifice was not possible. That is, whatever “take away” and “cleanse” have to do with, it is not satisfying something in God.

I think that the problem, basically, is that our trusting in idols has separated us from life-giving relationships with God and fellow humans. What needs to happen is that the power of sin (idolatry) over us needs to be broken. To have sin taken away or to have sin cleansed, it seems to me, is about breaking this power of sin over us and freeing us to accept and live in light of the persistent and ever-present mercy of God. Continue reading “Christian Salvation: More and More Questions (Part 3)”