Grace Emerges

Monday, April 30, 2012

Gospel Question, Salvation=Freedom?

I'm asking this question out of curiosity and to gather some insight from readers out there...

Based on several teachings of Jesus, the goal (or a goal) of the Messiah was to save people, in the sense of rescuing them from something and bringing them to a state of spiritual freedom and release from captivity.

Does "salvation" bring "freedom" ?

Passages such as John 3:17 (from the Common English Bible, CEB) in the explanation to Nicodemus:

17 God didn’t send his Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through him.
in Luke 19:10 in the story of Zaccheus :

1 Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through town. 2 A man there named Zacchaeus, a ruler among tax collectors, was rich. 3 He was trying to see who Jesus was, but, being a short man, he couldn’t because of the crowd. 4 So he ran ahead and climbed up a sycamore tree so he could see Jesus, who was about to pass that way. 5 When Jesus came to that spot, he looked up and said, “Zacchaeus, come down at once. I must stay in your home today.” 6 So Zacchaeus came down at once, happy to welcome Jesus. 
7 Everyone who saw this grumbled, saying, “He has gone to be the guest of a sinner.”
8 Zacchaeus stopped and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord, I give half of my possessions to the poor. And if I have cheated anyone, I repay them four times as much.” 
9 Jesus said to him, “Today, salvation has come to this household because he too is a son of Abraham. 10 The Human One came to seek and save the lost.”
and when Jesus started his ministry in Luke 4 by proclaiming that he came to fulfill the prophecy of Isaiah 61 to release captives.

Certainly the phrases "world might be saved", "salvation" and "seek and save the lost" are not the only expressions Jesus used, he also talked about:

  • finding the lost (like the coin, sheep or prodigal son)
  • coming to call sinners to repentance (transformation of hearts and lives), in Luke 5:31
  • coming to bring light to dark places
  • coming to forgive sins like in Like 5:20 when Jesus healed the paralyzed man lowered through the roof tiles ("The Human One has the authority on the Earth to forgive sins").

and many others.

These common expressions are usually understood as a distillation of the gospel message in evangelical circles.  Actually Jesus usually described the "good news" as the message that the kingdom of God was near, rather than that the offer to save sinners, but Jesus did describe saving sinners as a goal of the Messiah.  Regardless, this expression has led to the word "salvation" or "being saved" as meaning being a Christian (for evangelicals at least, I've certainly heard other definitions outside of evangelical circles).  But the meaning of "salvation" or "being saved" based on these expressions of Jesus should mean "live a life of new freedom".  Jesus tried to explain this in John 8:36, where it is clear that being "free" is in contrast to being a "slave to sin".
34 Jesus answered, “I assure you that everyone who sins is a slave to sin. 35 A slave isn’t a permanent member of the household, but a son is. 36 Therefore, if the Son makes you free, you really will be free. 37 I know that you are Abraham’s children, yet you want to kill me because you don’t welcome my teaching. 38 I’m telling you what I’ve seen when I am with the Father, but you are doing what you’ve heard from your father.”

My question is this: why don't I ever hear this?  Why don't I hear that the gospel message is: "Jesus can lead you out of the slavery of sin, to a state of spiritual freedom".  If sin is the jail, Jesus came to save you out of it.  What is this freedom?  What is "after" sin?  What is this gospel message, that we now live free of the darkness of sin by living in the light of Jesus?

Rephrasing: Are Christians free?  Do we teach them to be free?  Do we free our children and young Christians by our gospel message?  Does our love for others free them?  Does our church mission statement free people?

Rephrasing again: Freedom from sin cannot mean judging sins, since that simply places more burden on the sinner.  Freedom from sin cannot mean living a life of indentured servitude to earn forgiveness.  Being a disciple means being someone liberated by their acceptance of the gift of Christ, not being a slave to the will of God.  So I'm asking the question in the most serious way possible: does our gospel (meaning the message that we Christians teach about the gospel message in the Bible) lead believers to a state of freedom, or not?

Whatever the gospel message is, we evangelists are called to carry it to the world.  Are we bringing freedom?

If you want to know my lengthy thoughts on the answer to this question, and lots more questions about freedom, see the article: Forward Progress 5: The Fight for Freedom .

I would love to know your answers...

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