Session 6: Grasping the Metaphors of Salvation

➡ Average Reading Time: 24 minutes

Session 6: Grasping the Metaphors of SalvationWhen you finish this session you should be able to:

  • Understand the idea that scripture demonstrates salvation
  • Comprehend the First Testament moves toward restoration
  • See that restoration is confirmed in the Second Testament
  • Explore the new covenant
  • Understand the 11 metaphors in the Second Testament
  • Comprehend the 3 works of God: The Call of God, The Invitation of God,
  • Sanctification

Session Preview

In this session we will introduce you to the eleven metaphors of Salvation, Adoption, Conversion, Eternal Live, Filled with the Spirit/Baptism in the Spirit, Justification, Ransom, Reconciliation, Redemption, Regeneration/Born Again, Redemption, and Saving Faith, Saved, Salvation. Next we will examine three the works of God: he call of God, the invitation of God, and sanctification

Where We Are Going

Scripture Demonstrates Salvation
The First Testament Moves Toward Restoration
The New Covenant
The Eleven Second Testament Metaphors
The Work of God

Scripture Demonstrates Salvation

Scripture is a study in theological history. It is a book of books that reflects the acts of God in salvation history and the meaning of those acts. The acts of God can not be understood without the words of God. The words of God cannot be understood without the acts of God. The deeds and declaration are inseparable! The central theme of these words and works is Salvation History. Salvation was God’s purpose to redeem and restore his creation. From the fall forward, the purpose of God was to redeem mankind from their fallen condition. Humankind, created to live in paradise, lost it through willful sin. God has been moving humankind, ever since the garden, toward a future paradise. God cannot be blamed for the sinfulness of humankind (Gen. 1-3). Once in a fallen condition, Scripture presents the history of salvation as God’s plan for restoring the fallen. From Genesis to Malachi the acts of God to bring salvation to resound in Scripture. All the stories find their culmination in the virgin birth, sinless life, violent death, powerful resurrection, and awesome ascension of Jesus, which is often called the Christ-Event. In this decisive Event, the tides of history changed forever. The power of the devil was broken. The war was over, but battles remained to be fought. In Jesus, God has redeemed the whole cosmos, including humankind. Romans 8.19-21 tells us that creation waits in eager expectation to be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God.

The First Testament Moves Toward Restoration

The First Testament looks forward toward full restoration while the Second Testament confirms that Jesus has brought restoration. The central target to which God pointed was the defeat of Satan. Even as early as the story of the fall (Gen. 3), the First Testament has a forward look toward ultimate restoration. The story of the deceitful serpent depicts the conflict produced by the fall. Most folks are afraid of snakes even today. This picture story demonstrates the outcome of the struggle. The woman’s offspring will crush the serpent’s head. This was fulfilled by Jesus in his decisive victory over Satan by his life and death. The Isaiah 7 passage also gives us a view toward restoration. The focus of many heated debates, this prophetic passage was fulfilled in Jesus while at the same time having a fulfillment for the contemporary time of Isaiah. Ahaz was suffering some difficulty with his belief system of God. He was given a sign by Isaiah to encourage his faith. In Isaiah 7.14, the word translated virgin in most translations should be translated young woman, a woman of marriageable age. This young woman would give birth to a child and call him Immanuel, which means “God with us.” This child would be an expression of hope for Ahaz. While not completely certain, most scholarship believes that this child was Isaiah’s child.[ref]Christopher R. Smith. Isaiah. 30ff.[/ref] The deliverance which was promised to Ahaz was declared fulfilled in the birth of Jesus through a virgin (Matt. 1.23) who was impregnated supernaturally by the Spirit and gave birth to Jesus. The promise delivered to Ahaz by Isaiah is best seen as bringing contemporary relief to Ahaz, and future fulfillment in Jesus who would bring restoration as a relief to a weary land.

Restoration Confirmed in the Second Testament

What the First Testament points toward, the Second Testament confirms in the story of Jesus. The stories of Jesus in the Gospels demonstrated the fulfillment of the prophetic word of the First Testament, a promised redeemer to die as a sacrifice once-and-for-all for the sins of humankind. The overwhelming consensus of the Second Testament was that Jesus had brought restoration in God’s kingdom. The restoration of the end began with Jesus’ invasion of this present evil age. While we live between the times, the new age has broken in. The future has invaded the present. Restoration is here, but not yet.

The New Covenant

The coming of Jesus to be crucified was the apex of the story of the Second Testament. John the Baptist saw Jesus as the lamb of God who had come to take away the sins of the world. In the Second Testament, the aspect of sacrifice is understood from the many references to the blood of Jesus.

  • God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood (Rom. 3.25).
  • Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him! (Rom. 5.9)
  • In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding (Eph. 1.7).
  • But now in Christ Jesus, you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ (Eph. 2.13).
  • For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross (Col. 1.19-20).

The ecclesiae has taken this one word, blood, and impregnated it with sacrificial meaning. The actual physical blood of Jesus is not of primary importance in the above passages. There is no indication that Jesus shed very much blood at all, even though there have been many sermons, songs, and movies to depict that he did. The idea of blood being shed is a picture of the slaughter of a sacrificial lamb whose throat was cut and the blood gushed out. Nothing like this happened to Jesus on the cross. The blood and water that came from the side of Jesus were only after he had died. In the Second Testament as well as the First Testament, blood means “life” that has been violently taken away, “life” that has been offered in sacrifice.

Second Testament Metaphors

We now turn to the metaphors which the Second Testament uses to explain this new relationship that Jesus has brought from the future to the present.

1 Adoption

In Ephesians 1.3-5, Paul described adoption. These beginning verses of Ephesians 1 give praise to God. It is within the context of praise that Paul described this picture of salvation.

The God Who Blesses: Ephesians 1.3

Paul opened his letter to the Ephesians by blessing God. First, he blessed God for being the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Second, he blessed his readers, and by extension us, in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.

There are four ideas present in this verse:

  1. We are told when we will be blessed. The word blessed is an Aorist Active Participle (i.e., who has blessed). The word suggests that the blessing could be past, present, or future and that blessing actually occurred.
  2. We are told how we will be blessed. We are blessed in Christ. The phrase in Christ means that we who are blessed have become a part of the community of the King. Jesus brings people from darkness to light as he invades their lives.
  3. We are told where we will be blessed. We will be blessed in the heavenly realms. This phrase is strictly an Ephesians phrase appearing only in this book. It is not a geographical location. It is not the sky or any other spatial abode. Rather, it is the unseen world of spiritual reality, a place of war. A place where the principalities and powers operate (Eph 3.10; 6.12). The heavenly realms are the place where Jesus rules and his followers rule with him (Eph 1.20; 2.6). It is a place which is present, but not yet.
  4. We are told what we are blessed with. We have received every spiritual blessing, now but not yet. We have received everything that we need in the present. As needs appear, we then actualize what God has already completely given to us.

The God Who Chooses: Ephesians 1:4 (Elective Grace)

God’s decree is a theological term for the comprehensive plan for the world and all history that God has sovereignly established in eternity (Eph 1.11). The Westminster Shorter Catechism provides this definition: “The decrees of God are his eternal purpose, according to the counsel of his will, whereby, for his glory, he hath foreordained whatsoever comes to pass” (Q7). [ref]Daniel J. Treier and Walter A. Elwell. Evangelical Dictionary of Theology. 328. [/ref]

The doctrine of Election is often hotly debated. Those within the Reformed tradition who adopt Calvin’s TULIP acrostic hold that the atonement of Jesus was only for the elect.

However, the Reformed tradition differs over to whom the offer of atonement is offered. Some believe it is universal, that is for all, while others believe it is only to the elect who have been predetermined by God. The TULIP acrostic stands for:

Total Depravity
Unconditional Election
Limited Atonement
Irresistible Grace
Perseverance of the Saints

It may be better to say that Christ died for all, but all will not accept.
The chosen are the ones who accept the invitation. The parable in Matthew 22.14ff. about the banquet illustrates this idea of who the chosen are. Remember, a King decided to throw a wedding party which would last several days. His invitation was either turned down (Matt. 22.5) or abused (Matt. 22.11-13). So the invitation of the King was taken to the streets where it was given to everyone, good or bad. Those who accepted the call of the King became his guests. They were the people whom Jesus named chosen. They were a select and privileged group that made the right decision. They were chosen because they were a choice group of people who had freely responded to a choice opportunity. The King had not predetermined the decisions of those who turned down the invitation or of those who accepted the invitation. Becoming a part of the chosen was an individual choice.

Technically, we may say the following about “election.”

First, let’s clarify what the doctrine of Election is not.

  • The decree of God to save some and damn others
  • To create both those who will be saved and those who will be lost
  • To permit the fall of both groups
  • To provide salvation only for “the Elect”

Second, let’s clarify what the doctrine of Election is.

  • The decree to create
  • The decree to allow the fall
  • The decree to provide salvation for all
  • The decree to apply that salvation to those who chose to believe

Election, then, is the sovereign act of God through grace where he chooses in Christ for salvation all those who he foreknew would accept the salvation offered them. Therefore, we can say that:

  • Election was and is a sovereign act of God.
  • God was under no obligation to elect anyone since all had lost their status before him.
  • God chose us on the merits of another, his Son.

The text goes on to say that God elected us for a purpose:

  • To be holy, which is to say to be separated to him.
  • To be blameless, which is to think of one’s whole life as an offering to God. The word blameless is a sacrificial word that can be defined as one without blemish.

Our position in Christ is that we are set apart (holy) for God as an offering (blameless).

The God Who Adopts: Ephesians 1.5

God set a goal (predestined) from eternity, that we should be his children. We have been adopted to be his children through (by means of) Jesus Christ.
Adoption was a Roman Law. In Roman Law, the father had absolute power over his children, even life and death, as long as they were alive. The children never possessed anything because all possessions belonged to the Father. To be adopted, transferred from one family to another, was a serious step for anyone to take.

Life Perspective

We have moved from one family to another. The old family has no rights and claims to us. We have been freed from all debts and given all the privileges of the new family.

The adoption ceremony was simple and straightforward. The person to be adopted was traded between the two parties two times. On the third trade, the adoption was completed. It was at this point in the ceremony that the person who had been adopted took on all the rights and privileges of the new family and lost all the rights and privileges of the old family. Included were all debts and connections with the old family. The old family from which the adopted had moved was abolished as if it had never existed.

This new position of being an adopted child came by grace, not by right. The adopted son became the heir of the Father just like any natural son would be. The act of adoption was an act of love. The love of the new parents brought the adopted son or daughter into the family as a full-fledged member with all rights and privileges.

The idea of sonship implied responsibility. It is inconceivable that we should enjoy a relationship with God as his child without accepting the obligation to be intimate with the Father and cultivate the family likeness. God adopts us with pleasure. He is not a harsh Lord who is watching over the execution of his predetermined plan, but a smiling and happy Father who enjoys imparting his riches to his children.

2 Conversion

Conversion (strepho) means to turn around (Matt. 18.3). It is an event and a process. First, it signifies the action of the Spirit on us which moves us to respond to Jesus in faith. Second, conversion includes the continuing work of the Spirit in us which purifies us of discord and rebellion, remaking us into the image of Jesus. Conversion indicates an alteration of our attitudes toward God and others. It is the beginning of our ascent to Christian perfection. The biblical point of view is that we make progress toward perfection, but we can never attain it as a realized goal in this life. We are converted, but not yet. Even the converted need to repent (Rom. 13.14; Eph. 4.22-24).

Life Perspective

The Spirit is continually at work making me into the image of Jesus.

3. Eternal Life

Eternal life is a favorite phrase of John. It is the life of the age to come which is a present experience in the life of a Jesus follower. Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. (John 12.25). In this passage, John spoke about eternal life and the two ages. He who hates his life in this world (this present evil age) will keep it (his life) as he enters into eternal life (the life of the age to come, now). Eternal life is a foretaste of the future life to be completely received in the future at the Second Coming of Jesus.

Life Perspective

As a follower of Jesus, I am living in the presence of the future, now.

4. Filled with the Spirit/Baptism in the Spirit

The concept of being baptized in the Holy Spirit is presented in the four Gospels (Matt. 3.11; Mark 1.8; Luke 3.16; John 1.33-34). Luke also uses the phrase in Acts 1.5 and 11.16. Jesus is the speaker at Acts 1.5, while Peter is quoting Jesus in Acts 11.16. In all these passages the term is baptize not baptism. It must be noted that the term baptism in the Holy Spirit is not the language of Scripture. As a matter of fact, the term baptism in the Holy Spirit never appears in Scripture.

There are two ways by which this gift of the Holy Spirit is thought to be received. First, the gift is given subsequent to salvation. In some denominations, one must speak in tongues as the initial evidence that the Gift of the Holy Spirit has been received. We must remember that the idea of a second work of the Spirit has its roots in the Wesley Revival and serves as the basic foundation for the teaching among modern Pentecostals who find their roots in Wesley.

It should be noted for clarity that the language filled with the Spirit in Acts 2 is identical to the language in Luke 1 and Acts 4.31. The conclusion you can draw is that subsequent is not a theological mindset, but is arrived at either because of our experience or the experiences of others. It is a good idea to allow Scripture to nudge our presuppositions toward a more theological mindset, as we consider any topic in Scripture. Subsequent does not seem to be in the mind or heart of God.

Second, the gift of the Holy Spirit is given at conversion. In an article by Clark Pinnock in Perspectives on the New Pentecostalism edited by Russ Spittler (185), he says,

Baptism is a flexible metaphor, not a technical term. Luke seems to regard it as synonymous with wholeness (Acts 2.4, cf. 11.16). Therefore, so long as we recognize conversion as truly a baptism in the Spirit, there is no reason why we cannot use baptism to refer to subsequent fillings of the Spirit as well. This major experience or experiences ought not to be tied down in a tight second blessing schema, but should be seen as an actualization of what we have already received in the initial charismatic experience which is conversion.

The focus of this statement suggests that conversion is the first baptism in the Spirit and that there are many baptisms that will follow. All of these continuing experiences are only an actualization of what was completely given at conversion. This understanding provides us with liberating knowledge: there are no second-class followers of Jesus, some who have and some who have-not.
When you go shopping at a supermarket to buy food, there is often no difference in some of the foods available except for the label and price. The ingredients are the same and even the taste is the same. Some of us are given to purchasing only labels while others purchase content. Baptism in the Spirit is a label. In Fire and the Fireplace, [ref]Hummel. Fire in the Fire Place. Intervarsity Press. 185.[/ref]Hummel says,

The Church often faces the problem of the medicine bottle and its label. A person’s experience of God can be better than his doctrinal explanation of it. Unfortunately, the reverse can be true. Orthodox theology is often affirmed with little Christian character and service. Good medicine may be incorrectly labeled, while an accurate label can adorn an empty bottle.

We spend far too much time debating over the phraseology of this gift and too little time reaping the benefits of the gift. We have to call this experience something, and we have all sorts of Christianese at our disposal. We could call it baptism, infilling, empowerment, a special touch, being zapped, overwhelmed, or any number of other metaphors.

For Paul and Luke it seems clear that one baptism, many fillings is an adequate way to understand this gift. In the book of Acts, there is no one model for how an individual comes to fellowship with God through Jesus. There is no specific sequence of events lined out for everyone to follow. What one can say is that the Spirit blows where he desires. Dr. Russ Spittler says, “Completeness and not subsequence strikes me as a better category by which to understand the arrival of the Spirit in Acts.”[ref]Russell Spittler. Perspectives on the New Pentecostalism. 5.[/ref]

Life Perspective

There are no second-class citizens in the kingdom of God. All followers of Jesus have received the Spirit even if some have received the gift a more quiescent way. Even those may enter into a more experienced life in the Spirit than maybe their present theological circumstance.

The good news is that you already have the gift of the Holy Spirit if you have come to believe in Jesus and have accepted him into your life. From that point to the time you leave this world, you will be in the process of being saved according to Paul in 1 Corinthians 1.18. As that process continues, you will be actualizing the blessings that God gave you once-for-all in Jesus at conversion. Some of those blessings are the gracelets (my word for gifts) that we receive to give to others. So be ready at any moment for God to send you one of the gracelets, within the gift of the Spirit, to open and share with another member of the body.

5. Justification

Sounds like a huge, scary, rather dry, theological term, huh? It doesn’t have to be! Try this definition on for size. Justification is the act of God which pronounces a sinner to be acquitted of his or her sin (Rom 3.28; 4.25; 5.16, 18). Paul delivered the penetrating message in Romans that God had justified them by his grace through faith for the sake of Jesus.

The word justification in Scripture has a special biblical sense. It means to declare or pronounce righteous. It does not mean to make righteous. It is a declarative act of God. By grace, he declares sinners free from the guilt and eternal consequences of their sin because of their faith in Christ. You read that right! We are free from guilt and sin’s eternal consequences. Great news, huh?
We could get the wrong idea if we defined justification according to popular, everyday usage which is often explained as being made innocent. The use of the term justification in this way is to excuse our actions and vindicate ourselves in the eyes of man or the law. We might say a man was justified in killing an intruder in his home. While this may be an accurate statement, it is not what is meant when the term justification is used by Paul.

We can also get the wrong impression of the word from its common definition in the ecclesiae. We have coined a phrase to explain justification. We say it means “just-as-if-I-had-not-sinned.” This would indicate that we were guiltless or innocent of sin, while just the opposite is true. We are guilty of sin. However, we have been declared justified by God and are free from the guilt and punishment of the sin committed.

Justification by Faith Means Three Things

Paul used the concept of justification without any explanation. One might conclude that his first readers understood what he meant by the use of the word. He can simply say to the Corinthians that they are justified, yet not explain what that means.

Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God (1 Cor. 6.9-11).

Paul used the word justification in the sense of declared righteous in his sermon to the synagogue in Pisidian Antioch (Acts 13.38-39). He said that everyone who believes is justified from everything, you could not become justified from following the law of Moses. Justifying faith is believing in the gospel of the kingdom. It is relying on Christ’s merit. It is receiving God’s declared righteousness into our lives. For Paul, justification by faith essentially means three things.

  1. Salvation is without works. Works never influenced God in justifying a person. Justification is “by grace.” Works follow faith; they do not proceed faith.
  2. Faith is the God-given instrument by which a man accepts God’s justification. It equals forgiveness in Christ (Eph. 2.8; Rom. 1.17).
  3. Faith is always faith in Christ.

Here are eight things to remember about justification:

  1. Justification is an act of God.
  2. Justification is based on the fact that Christ died for us.
  3. Justification is the forgiveness of sins.
  4. Justification is acquittal from punishment due to us for sin.
  5. Justification is a reconciliation of the sinner to a loving God.
  6. Justification is the imputation of the righteousness of Christ.
  7. Justification is given through grace.
  8. Justification is followed by good works and a life of faith.

6. Ransom

Mark wrote in his Gospel that Jesus died as a ransom (lutron, Mark 10.45). In the Roman world slavery was a well-known fact. Lutron was the price paid to set free a captive or slave. It was often the case that the slave owner would come to the slave market and buy a slave and then give the slave freedom. The slave would often turn and serve the owner with much gratitude because the purchase price had been paid. It is in servitude that true freedom lies.

Life Perspective

Full payment has been made for your sins. You have been bought out of slavery and set free by the grace of God.

7. Reconciliation

Reconciliation (katalasso) can be defined as bringing into harmony. In 2 Corinthians 5.16-20, Paul taught that the death of Jesus brought humanity to a place where they were in harmony with God. God did everything that was needed in Christ to bring us into harmony with himself. Normally, the one who is offended is the one who would be expected to make a move toward reconciliation. But, in this case, God made the first move in Jesus to bring us to reconciliation with him. It was God, the one who was offended, who extended his hand of reconciliation to the offender. The image of reconciliation suggests that we turned and betrayed a dear and influential relative. But, instead of going back to him on our knees, begging for forgiveness, he came to us to embrace us in his love.

Life Perspective

As a follower of Jesus, we live in harmony with God.

8. Redemption

The death of Jesus on the cross benefited humankind with redemption. From the beginning fall in the garden, God has been seeking to redeem humankind. The sacrificial system in the First Testament is a foreshadowing of the work of Jesus on the cross in the Second Testament.

The Development of Redemption

The killing of an animal to provide a covering for Adam and Eve in the garden has often been interpreted as the first sign of atonement in the First Testament (Gen. 3.21). However, it seems better to understand this picture in the garden as God meeting an immediate need for his children out of his love and care for them.

The first mention of sacrifice in the book of Genesis was the gift offerings that Cain and Abel brought to God (Gen. 4.2b-5a). This passage is usually thought to be a contrast between an offering of animal life and an offering of plant life. It is usually taught that God rejected the plant life because of the need for a blood sacrifice. However, the real contrast is between a thoughtless offering and a generous offering. God looked at the offerer’s heart and not the offering itself.
The first reference of an altar was the occasion when Noah built one and gave God a burnt offering (Gen. 8.20). From the animals in the ark, Noah took one of every clean animal and sacrificed it to God. This act is the first reference to atonement in the First Testament.

In Abraham, God began to deal with sin in a redemptive way. Abraham is commanded by God to kill the heir to the promise given to him. He took Isaac and went to the designated place. Isaac wanted to know what was going to be sacrificed and Abraham told him that God would provide for them.

The mission of Moses was to free the children of God from their bondage in Egypt. After nine plagues, Pharaoh would not let the people be freed. In the tenth plague, God told Moses to kill a lamb and place the blood of the lamb on the doorposts and over the doors. He told Moses that when he saw the blood he would pass over that home and spare the firstborn.

In the redemptive act of the Exodus, God made Israel his children. During their stay and training at Mt. Sinai, God gave them instructions about sacrifices. The book of Leviticus gives detailed directions about these sacrifices.

In the sin offering, the priest who represented the people of Israel would put his hands on the head of the “sin offering” and slay the offering. He would take the blood from the sacrificed animal and pour it on the altar by the act of placing his hands on the animal to be sacrificed. The priest presented Israel a picture of the transference of their sin to a sin-bearer who would die a violent death.

During the time of Samuel, Israel had taken the sacrificial system and made a ritual out of it. What was more important to God was that Israel obeyed the stipulations of the covenant they had made with him (1 Sam. 15.22b).

Life Perspective

The violent death of Jesus is the substitute for your sins and has brought you redemption.

The prophet Hosea told the people of his time that God desired mercy and not sacrifice, that Israel should acknowledge God rather than provide endless burnt offerings (Hosea 6.6). The word mercy in Hosea’s passage is the word for covenant love in the First Testament. It means to be loyal to the covenant relationship which they had with God. To acknowledge God was another way of saying that they should keep his covenant stipulations.

9. Regeneration/Born Again

Regeneration is the transformation of human life by the impregnation of God’s seed into it. The process of regeneration can be seen in the story of Nicodemus (John 3.1-10).

Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a member of the Jewish ruling council. He came to Jesus at night and said, “Rabbi, we know you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the miraculous signs you are doing if God were not with him.”

In reply, Jesus declared, “I tell you the truth unless a man is born from above, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” “How can a man be born when he is old?” Nicodemus asked. “Surely he cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb to be born!”

Jesus answered, “I tell you the truth unless a man is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born from above!’ The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”

“How can this be?” Nicodemus asked.

“You are Israel’s teacher,’ said Jesus, “and do you not understand these things? I tell you the truth, we speak of what we know, and we testify to what we have seen, but still you people do not accept our testimony. I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things?”

Life Perspective

You have been impregnated with the Spirit of God.

John 3.3 tells us that a person who is entering the kingdom of God must be born into the kingdom in a radically new fashion. This second birth is initiated by the King in heaven. Entry into the kingdom cannot occur by human striving or initiation. It is the sole act of God.

Nicodemus’ response demonstrated that he did not understand what Jesus was saying. He thought that Jesus was referring to physical birth.

Using Hebrew parallelism, Jesus responded to Nicodemus using language that Nicodemus would have no problem understanding. In Rabbinic language of the day, water was connected with procreation. Water was used as a symbol for seed. John 3.3 and 3.5 say the same thing. To be born from above was to be born from a spiritual seed.

Purification, baptism, and physical birth have often been used to interpret this passage, I believe that spiritual birth is what Jesus was talking about. To be born again is to be impregnated by the very seed of God.

Peter caught this meaning when he told his readers that they …have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable… (1 Pet. 1.23) and again in 2 Peter 1.4 when he says “…you may participate in the divine nature…”.

We may say that we are called by God’s initiation to change our minds and conduct and return to him. Second, we are born into this life with the opportunity to have a second birth, one which comes from above and is produced by being impregnated by God’s seed.

10. Redemption (Mark 1.14-15)

Repentance is turning to God in total obedience. Repentance demands complete commitment and seeks forgiveness in full trust and surrender. Repentance involves faith (…repent and believe…). It leads to God’s gift of conversion. In the conversion experience, Jesus imparted power to those who are subject to his divine rule. The message of repentance is not severe, harsh, or the law. Its message is one of joy, which is the foundation of the gospel.
The process of repentance has two phases. First, the initiation of God in calling you back to himself. Second, the action of the person to move in their life with what God is doing, which involves a change of mind and a change of conduct. It is to turn around and go back to the face of God.

Life Perspective

To be repentant is to turn and see God face-to-face.

The parable of the two sons in Matthew 21.28-32 provides a true illustration of repentance.

“What do you think? There was a man who had two sons. He went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work today in the vineyard.’

“‘I will not,’ he answered, but later he changed his mind and went.

“Then the father went to the other son and said the same thing. He answered, ‘I will, sir,’ but he did not go.

“Which of the two did what his father wanted?”

“The first,” they answered.

Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you. For John came to you to show you the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes did. And even after you saw this, you did not repent and believe him.

11. Saving Faith, Saved, Salvation

The jailer in Philippi asked the question of Paul and Silas, “…What must I do to be saved?” By this question, he may have meant something like, “How can I be safe from the danger of being put to death for negligence?” If that is the case, the question is surely a secular one.

However, the response that Paul and Silas give is not secular at all. “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved…”

It is possible in life to be saved from many things: drowning, burning house, car wrecks, etc. From a religious point of view, we are saved from the power of sin. Salvation means to be free from the curse of the law (Gal. 3.13) and freedom from wrath (1 Thes. 5.9).

Salvation is the work of God, the call of God, and comes by the invitation of God.

The Work of God

There are three works of God in our salvation by his grace and love:

  1. God moved on our behalf (Eph. 2.8-9). “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.”
  2. God’s grace provided a free gift (Rom. 5.16). “Again, the gift of God is not like the result of the one man’s sin: The judgment followed one sin and brought condemnation, but the gift followed many trespasses and brought justification.”
  3. God’s love provided a sacrifice (John 3.16). “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

The purpose of God in our salvation is:

  • That we should be conformed to the image of his Son (Rom. 8.29). “For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.”
  • That we should become heirs with him (Rom. 8.17). “Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings so that we may also share in his glory.”
  • That we should live with him forever (Eph. 2.6-7). “And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.”

The Call of God

God’s call presents two needs:

  • There is a need for the presentation of the Gospel (Rom. 10.14).
  • There is a need for hearing the proclamation of the Gospel (Rom. 10.17).

Romans 10.17 is often cited with the notion that there is a connection between being in tune with the Word of God, i.e., the Bible, and one’s ability to have faith. I believe that there is an essential truth in this belief. However, I think that we are ill-advised to use this passage as a proof text for this opinion. This passage falls within the context of Paul’s dealing with the evangelization of the Jews. It is translated in the New International Version as, “…faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ.” Good News Bible has a better translation, “So then, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message comes through preaching Christ.” Clearly, this verse does not teach that one can gain faith from knowing the Word of God but rather teaches that one may come to faith through hearing preaching which is about Christ.

The Invitation of God

God’s purpose for mankind is to bring them back. This is demonstrated in the life and ministry of Christ, often called the Christ- Event (the whole of his redemptive life, i.e., his birth, his obedient life, his sacrificial death, his powerful resurrection, his ascension back to the Father).

God provided through Jesus an invitation for mankind to come back to him. In like fashion, we have all been led through a series of events in our life which have led us to salvation. It is our Salvation History, which for some was short, but for others was longer. According to Paul, we are now in the process of being saved. “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved, it is the power of God” (1 Cor. 1.18). This Event will continue the rest of our lives. We are saved, but not yet. Complete salvation awaits us in the continuing of eternal life beyond physical death in the fullness of the age to come.

Life Perspective

Record your personal Salvation History. Look at the acts of God in your life and marvel at his grace and mercy.


Paul uses this term as yet another figure of speech for conversion. For him, it is not a reference to a work of grace that follows salvation. In 2 Thessalonians 2.13 Paul says, “But we ought always to thank God for you, brothers loved by the Lord because from the beginning God chose you to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through belief in the truth.” Paul seems to use the word when he has a concern with the sinful behavior of followers of Jesus. He has a repeated emphasis on sanctification in 1 Corinthians (1.2, 30; 6.11). In 1 Corinthians 6.11, sanctification appears with two other metaphors and speaks about the conversion of the Corinthians. Sanctification is being set apart by God for holy, godly living, which stands in stark contrast to one’s former way of life.

Life Perspective

You are set apart by God to be holy and live a godly life as a reflection of his life in you

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Read Me First


Throughout these sessions, I have used the word ecclesia (singular) for the usual word church and ecclesiae (plural) to indicate a church in a particular geographic place, i.e., the ecclesiae at Corinth, meaning the whole of the many smaller ecclesia that met in homes in Corinth. This is to distinguish between the Institutional Church model (IC) and ecclesia that meet in cities and towns around the world. The ecclesiae written about by the authors of the Second Testament were not the same as what the “church” has become over the years of its existence. Usually, but not always, folks think of a church as a place where they go to a building and set in rows of pews and listen to music and sometimes sing and listen to sermons by a pastor or senior pastor. The ecclesiae of the Second Testament time did not invoke this model.


I have discovered over the years that if you want to try and change minds about something special, you have to venture out and reword it in order to grasp a foothold for a new refreshed understanding of the idea presented by the word. Such is the case between "church" and "ecclesia."


Happy Reading!

Read Me Second


Referenced verses in the text of this study are not used to prove some point of view. They are merely markers where the subject matter is referenced by other books and authors. To gain a larger view of each quote, a serious student of the Holy Writ would take the time to view the reference and see what the background is. The background provides tracks on which the meaning of a text rides. So knowing the context of a referenced passage would help the reader to gain a more thorough understanding of an author than just the words quoted and marked by a verse number that was not a part of the original author's text, which as you might remember was performed on the text in a random fashion many years later.


Happy Reading!

Read Me Third


The verses that are referenced in these sessions are not meant to prove a point. They are simply pointers to where the idea being written about may have a correlation. In order to see if they accomplish the thesis presented by the original author, a student should read, at a minimum, the chapter in which the verse is found as well as trying to ascertain what the original author may have meant to say to the original audience.


Of course, this is a lot of work but it is beneficial work. If one does not understand what the author meant when it was written and the audience could not have understood by what was written, then the words on the page can mean anything that a present reader may assign as a meaning, thus distorting what God was inspiring for the original writer to write to the original audience to hear.

A great and recent book by N.T. Wright and Michael F. Bird entitled The New Testament in Its World would be a wonderful addition to your reading helps.


Happy Reading!

Jesus Followers


There are many synonyms to use for the word believer, which is the most common word for a person who has "converted" to follow Jesus. I have chosen "Jesus follower(s) or follower(s) of Jesus instead of the word believer in these presentations to allow the reader an opportunity to move away from the idea of believer which conjures up the possible thought of "ascent" to a set of doctrines that have been assembled by different groups over the centuries and show up in this day and age as a set of statements posted on web sites and other written material. These sets of beliefs are suggested by many as the ones that one should ascent to so that upon death the one who assents can go to heaven, i.e., just believe and you are good to go. Jesus followers/followers of Jesus suggest an action that one should take. Remember, Jesus told his disciples to follow him. Yes, belief is important, but one must move beyond belief to action.


(See "Discipleship" Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels. 182-188.)