Redemption verses Salvation
For He hath made Him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him. 2 Cor. 5:21.
Sin is a fundamental relationship; it is not wrong doing, it is wrong being, deliberate and emphatic independence of God. The Christian religion bases everything on the positive, radical nature of sin. Other religions deal with sins; the Bible alone deals with sin. The first thing Jesus Christ faced in men was the heredity of sin, and it is because we have ignored this in our presentation of the Gospel that the message of the Gospel has lost its sting and its blasting power.
The revelation of the Bible is not that Jesus Christ took upon Himself our fleshly sins, but that He took upon Himself the heredity of sin which no man can touch. God made His own Son to be sin that He might make the sinner a saint. All through the Bible it is revealed that Our Lord bore the sin of the world by identification, not by sympathy. He deliberately took upon His own shoulders, and bore in His own Person, the whole massed sin of the human race— “He hath made Him to be sin for us, who knew no sin,” and by so doing He put the whole human race on the basis of Redemption. Jesus Christ rehabilitated the human race; He put it back to where God designed it to be, and anyone can enter into union with God on the ground of what Our Lord has done on the Cross.
A man cannot redeem himself; Redemption is God’s ‘bit,’ it is absolutely finished and complete; its reference to individual men is a question of their individual action. A distinction must always be made between the revelation of Redemption and the conscious experience of salvation in a man’s life.
This is where I believe a great deal of confusion originates. We have confused redemption with salvation. People teach that salvation is complete, finished, finalized and that all we have to do is say some magic words and we are a shoe-in to be taken to heaven. In the opposite camp others feel a need to keep a bit of uncertainty in the heart to motive us to work harder at perfection. They feel that it is too dangerous to have full assurance, that it will lead to complacency, that assurance will inevitably lead to indulgence in sin. Therefore they cannot allow for the idea of a complete redemption at the cross and feel strongly that there is something yet that we must do to add to Jesus' work to fulfill the demands of the law.
Both sides are missing the point but from opposite sides. I find the need for both sides of a balance as hinted at in this reading. The confusion is that both camps fail to appreciate the real meaning of these words. Redemption and salvation are two very different things though closely related.
Redemption was in fact fully fulfilled by Jesus at the cross and confirmed in His resurrection. There is nothing we can add to it to improve the arrangement made by God for us in redemption. Whether we believe in it or not, the whole human race is now seen from the perspective of redemption and we cannot escape that no matter how much we believe it or resist it or even remain ignorant of it.
However, that in no way assumes that redemption will save us in the end. Redemption is the full and free provision for our salvation but it is not salvation itself. Salvation is something more than redemption and the differences between the two are vitally important to appreciate. In addition, salvation was not finished at the cross, it was redemption.
The very word salvation is based on the root word meaning to salvage, restore, the idea of getting humanity functioning again as it was original designed to function. As far as our availability to be restored is concerned, redemption put humanity back into a vantage position where anyone can experience restoration if they choose to allow God to implement it in their life. However, since God never employs force against people's will, salvation necessarily involves the cooperation of the sinner in the process of salvation which is a life-long experience, not a one-time event. It may involve many one-time choices along the way, but in no way does salvation happen instantaneously. Salvation – the restoration of our thinking, our attitudes, our dependence on God fully and free of resistance – that is a relationship that must be cultivated, nurtured, deepened and worked out over the rest of our life. That is what the model of marriage is supposed to teach us.
Does our non-cooperation in the process of salvation nullify the reality of our foundation of redemption? Not at all. The only thing our rejection or ignoring of redemption accomplishes is to waste all the work and suffering and achievements that Jesus accomplished to make it possible for us to be saved. Redemption is totally apart and separate from us. Salvation very much involves us but does not ignore or replace redemption.
Redemption created the foundation which salvation builds upon. However, it is extremely important to not then begin to think that salvation can become our foundation. The process of restoration, of salvaging our lives, of transforming us back into God's image in no way has any effect either negative or positive on the finished work of redemption. The foundation is the foundation and nothing else should ever be attempted to supplant that. To do so is to confuse the perfect arrangement worked out by God to finish the work that He started on our behalf.
Jesus dealt with the underlying foundation of sin – rebellion, independence from God – and replaced it with a dependent relationship with God like we had originally before the fall. He took Adam's place as the head and full representative of all humanity. We cannot change that, challenge it or escape it. Jesus replaced the foundation of the whole human race, even retroactively so that all humans from the beginning of creation to the end of time are included in this act of redemption. Humanity now has a new foundation as a whole and all are included in this act of redemption without exception because they are a human being.
However, the old foundation beliefs still have strong effects on people's thinking about their relationship to God. Satan's lies still lead us to believe we can live independent of God and he asserts that redemption is just an illusion, a fairy tale, a Christian myth that has no basis in reality. Thus he tries to neutralize the power of the cross and presents God as still relating to humanity based on the old foundation of rebellion and separation from our only source of life.
To the extent that we believe Satan's lies about God and about redemption, we will live out the results and experience the effects of those lies. So long as we think God demands external obedience to His rules and laws as the basis for our relationship with Him, we will operate on a premise of trying to establish a foundation of our own, a foundation of obedience so that God will accept us and maybe love us and take us to heaven. Paul confronted that trap very directly in his teachings but we still fall into it.
This kind of religion is very popular among many and infiltrates much of our thinking. But it is a religion based on a faulty foundation and not based on the foundation of redemption brought about by Jesus. To build on a different foundation is to be set up for catastrophic failure when the tests of trial burst upon us.
On the other hand, it is equally dangerous to think that since Jesus laid the only valid foundation there can be, that there is no need for any more to happen in our lives. Many teach that since Jesus finished redemption 2,000 years ago that all we have to do is acknowledge that fact and in doing so we automatically are inducted into a special group of people who will be taken to heaven whether they have any transformation or not internally. 'Only believe' is the cry of many religious people while they fail to realize the true purpose of the foundation of redemption. This places them in great danger of also missing out on the salvation that is distinct from the foundation of redemption but builds upon it.
The redemption worked out by Jesus is the great magnet to attract us into a relationship with God by which our hearts and minds and attitudes are prepared to live in the dangerous presence of God's great passion and power. God is not in the business of transforming people without their cooperation. If we do not allow our hearts to be drawn into an interactive, intimate relationship with the heart of God through the process of salvation, we negate or discount the work that Jesus did to reveal the heart of the Father to us.
The very essence of the redemption that Jesus accomplished on the cross was the revelation of how God feels about us and who He really is. It revealed that God's attributes of forgiveness, mercy, justice and truth are constant and unchanging. Jesus did not convince God to forgive us; He revealed that God has never held a grudge against us from the start and forgives us in His heart before we even sin. Offense has never been held in God's heart, but a perception of that was implanted as a lie in our hearts by the old foundation of our false views of God inherent in our sinful nature. God's forgiveness and love have always been and always will be a constant reality. However, that forgiveness does not include the elimination of the guilt and shame and condemnation that our own hearts feel based on our false perceptions of God. (See the studies about the difference between the original Greek words translated as forgiveness in English.)
Redemption is the revelation of the truth about how God feels toward sinners. Jesus allowed sinners and demons to treat Him in every way they could, attempting to flush out of the heart of God any hidden animosity that might be lurking there. Satan had insisted since his inception of sin that God had a dark side, hidden secrets and feelings of resentment that given the right circumstances would be exposed. If he could get Jesus to take offense from any mistreatment heaped on Him and desire revenge even for a moment, then Satan's claims of legitimacy for his methods of rule would be vindicated.
The cross was God's provision for just such circumstances and Satan and his agents were allowed to treat God any way possible, abusing Him to the extreme in order to flush out any such resentment or feelings of offense. If there was any potential of taking offense or desire for retaliation on the part of God against sinners, the cross and the treatment of Jesus during those hours was designed to bring that out into the open.
Redemption reveals the glaring fact that at the cross sin and sinners failed to elicit any sympathetic reaction on the part of Jesus to the way we feel justice and life should be lived from our sinful perspective. Sinners inherently assume that justice involves inflicting pain and suffering on those who offend us and we believe God feels the same way. But God's ways of justice are very different than ours and this is revealed at the cross to all who are willing to see it. God is not in the business of inflicting retribution against those who hurt Him but is in the business of demonstrating His infinite love and compassion toward those who mistreat and hate Him just as Jesus taught.
Salvation on the other hand, is the embracing of the truth about how God feels towards us as revealed at the cross and responding to that revelation by allowing Christ to live within us and transform us from the inside out. Instead of relating to God on the basis of law and obedience and trying to fulfill His requirements to impress Him, we allow a new foundation of an awareness of God's true feelings towards us to empower and bond us to Him in such a way that our lives begin to naturally reflect what we progressively see in God's attitudes toward us. Salvation is the relationship that is produced and perpetuated by believing in what is revealed in redemption.
If we try to experience salvation without understanding and embracing the truth about God as revealed in redemption, we are building on an unstable foundation and our experience with God will be very shaky and unreliable. If we claim to believe in redemption but fail to enter into a relationship of salvation that transforms us at the heart level, then we really have not grasped the true nature of that redemption. We cannot truly believe that God loves us and desires to spend eternity in closeness with us if we refuse to allow Him to begin our preparation to endure His glory right now.
God's glory and power and passionate love are actually fatal to anyone who is not in full agreement and sympathy with His ways of love and passion. Not even Moses, who knew God better than nearly any human who ever lived, was able to stand the presence of the full glory of God as revealed in His face. Yet God intends that we shall someday be able to see His face and not just survive but thrive in that revelation. How is that ever going to be able to happen without a free and cooperative process of preparation that is the essence of what salvation is all about? We must be salvaged and restored to our original design as far as our attitudes toward God is concerned or we cannot survive the fire that describes the very essence of God's passion for His creatures.
All those who enter into the arrangement of cooperating with God in salvation will be swept along by the promptings of His Spirit if they are willing and will encounter many difficult changes in their life. There will be many trials producing painful confrontations, trials that will expose internal triggers and offenses that must be dealt with. There will be new light introduced and lies about God and ourselves will be challenged and replaced with glowing truth. But all of this is simply the process by which God is exposing the things that endanger us, that would prevent us from being able to endure the glory of God.
Salvation is the means by which God makes us safe to live in His presence. Without the healing process of salvation removing the contaminants from our soul, we would remain vulnerable to the caustic nature of love when it encounters resistance. Sin and the resistance inherent in its rebellion creates torture when exposed to passionate love. That is why the demons in Jesus' day begged to get away from His presence. They said that they did not want to be tortured before their time which is at the day of Judgment. They said this because the intensity of the love that emanated from the presence of Jesus was already torturing them and they begged to get away from that love due to the pain they were feeling in their resistance to it.
Likewise, if we do not allow God to transform us through the radical process of salvation based on the foundational revelation of redemption through Jesus, we will not be able to stand in that presence when Jesus returns with His glory unveiled. If we have not allowed Him to take us through the painful process of being transformed from glory to glory by the trials He sends us through, then when He appears in the clouds of glory we will perceive Him as being angry at us and will call Him the 'wrathful Lamb' – a real oxymoron if ever there was one.