Salvation belongs to God!
One of my professional careers brings me in contact with clients of all faith traditions, and also with those who claim they have no religion or affiliation with any faith tradition. One of the things that amaze me when I am providing care to these clients is the surprised look in their faces when I mention that salvation belongs to God and not to any institutionalized religion including Christianity. I could sense the consternation in their faces because they know that I am a Christian, and also an ordained clergy. In Revelation 7:10, we learn that salvation belongs to God who sits upon the throne…. “They cried out in a loud voice, saying, “Salvation belongs to our God who is seated on the throne, and to the Lamb!”
If you have been involved evangelism, you must have come across people with statements like these, “ How can Christianity be the only way to salvation, when in fact there are very devoted, and loving people in other faith traditions like, Moslems, Buddhism, New Age movements, and Catholics? (It is interesting that many people including some Catholics don’t consider Catholics as Christians).
It is not strange that there are many people who consider themselves as Christians including ordained Christian ministers that believe that all roads lead to God. In other words, that salvation could be found in religious traditions. One of the banes of my life relative to some who profess Christianity is the inconsistency in their beliefs and how they approach the Bible. These Christians will disregard what the Bible teaches about certain issues when it contradicts a position they hold but will use the same scripture is if aligns with what they teach or promote.
My first taste of this was in College. It was during the Bush and Gore Presidential election. Many of my colleagues were vehemently opposed to Bush, whom I admire strongly. These colleagues of mine went as far as saying that Bush is not a Christian. They said that he was using Christianity to his own political advantage. Now, this is a man who has publicly expressed his conversion experience and insisted that it was that encounter that changed him, otherwise he wouldn’t be alive. What was even more frustrating and confusing for me about my colleagues’ insinuation that Bush is not a Christian was that Bush’s testimony of conversion was similar to the type of experiences of some of them before they came to the Lord. I just could not reconcile how it could be true for them and not someone else.
The current President of the United States is another example of our inconsistency in our articulation of the Scriptures. This is a man who spent over a decade attending a Christian Church. As soon as he starts running for presidency, some so called Christians came up with the notion that he is a Moslem as if this nation has to be ruled by a Christian President to be effective. All these religious institutions including Christianity convince themselves that their tradition is the way to salvation/to God. How then can this the case if in Rev 7: 10 we learn that salvation belongs to God?
This is how it reads in the Greek, H swthri,a tw/| qew/| h`mw/n – the salvation the God of him, which is just a way of stating possession in Greek and some other languages as well. Salvation is God’s property, how then can it found in religious institutions? Part of our confusion is that we tend to think that salvation is a New Testament concept. The question to ask is: what are we saved from? When it comes to salvation, regardless of religious/faith tradition God is always the subject.
The book of Psalms is replete with passages describing the Psalmist’s rescue from combined physical and spiritual danger, animosity, and assault of the enemy. The same Bible also makes us to know that God’s saving act includes the whole human life, and all his creation. The Hebrews knew about the seriousness of sin and were also aware that God’s unmerited favor (hessed) could cleanse them; and tried to mitigate this through the sacrificial system. Ultimately, it was God who finally saves them from their sins.
Paul also talks about being rescued from physical and spiritual dangers during his missionary endeavors but God was always the subject. God also saves us from ill health and ordinary earthly suffering. The biblical writers as well as people in the health field are well aware that symptoms of diseases are manifestation of deeper disorder. The salvation that God gives not only diagnoses the symptom of the disease, but also seeks to find the root of the problem. Finding the root of the problem and eradicating is the good news (salvation).
God promises in Rev 21:4 (echoing Isa. 20) of how death, the shroud that covers all men will be destroyed. This is a promise of hope to come from Israel’s God not from any other god. The gospel reveals of how Israel longed for God to come and do something about the problem of evil and sin. Some of the them soon realized that the God of Israel was bringing in a new rule that will destroy the power of sin over Israel first, and over all people because the promise of salvation from sin and death has been made to all people. This era will then see the ultimate shalom which is to be ushered in through the person of Christ.
Through God’s son Jesus, God would finally atone for sin, for He himself is the propitiation for the sins of the whole world. This then means, that for there to be a final salvation there must be a final solution to sin. Matthew 3:6, identifies Jesus to be the one “who takes away the sins of the world.” Since the whole world is condemned as a result of sin, we must accept God’s salvation, and this salvation is made available through Jesus.
God also declares that by the merits of the passion and death of Christ, His salvation could only be found through Jesus. God chose Jesus to be the only instrument of salvation and not any religion or faith tradition. Those who accept this offer of God’s salvation are called Christ-like- Christians? God is the one who saves, and He chose to do His saving work through His son Jesus. The question is, since salvation is God’s property, does He reserve the right to choose the instrument through which it could be made available to all His creation?
God’s Best wishes in this Advent season. Remember, you have to be a part of the first Advent to participate in the second advent!