In this chapter Tim Keller lists four descriptions of what salvation is. Last week we looked at the first two. This week we will cover the last two and finish the book.
Here are the four descriptions:
Salvation is Experiential
Salvation is Material
pages 113 - 124
Salvation is Communal
pages 124 - 133
Salvation is Individual
Note this stark contrast between religion and the gospel.
Religion operates on the principle of I obey, therefore I am accepted by God.
The gospel operates on the principle that I am accepted by God through the work of Jesus Christ – therefore I obey.
Keller then goes on to set the stage for the battle between the flesh and the Spirit that Galatians 5 speaks about. Keller puts it this way: “We must not think, however, that once believing it, the Christian is now finished with the gospel message.” Using Luther as a reference Keller says, “…even after you are converted by the gospel your heart will go back to operating on other principles unless you deliberately, repeatedly set it to the gospel mode.”
Keller describes this conflict in language that is strikingly similar to that of Jay Adams when speaking of this same conflict between the spirit and the flesh. He says, “We habitually and instinctively look to other things besides God and his grace as our justification. Take some time to think carefully about the content of page 115 in the book. Then ask yourself this question: Where is my heart’s functional trust? Is it in the gospel or is in other things?
The balance of this section can be summed up with this statement – “Faith in the gospel restructures our motivations, our understanding, our identity and our view of the world. Behavioral compliance to rules without heart change will be superficial and fleeting.”
There is a lot of material in this section. There are applications to giving, marriage and stinginess. At the beginning of the section there is a fresh look at your participation in the Lord’s Supper. Take the time to delve into this rich teaching.
Salvation is Communal
Feasting is communal by its very nature. A meal draws people together. However, our culture is one where the desires of the individual take precedence over the family, group or community. Thus our modern culture is at immediate cross-purposes with the Church of Jesus Christ at its most basic core. Thus people think that they can grow spiritually without losing their independence.
Keller makes this observation on page 127:
It takes a community to really know an individual. “How much more would this be true of Jesus Christ? Christians commonly say they want a relationship with Jesus, that they want to get to know Jesus better. You will never be able to do that by yourself. You must become deeply involved in the church, in Christian community, with strong relationships of love and accountability. Only if you are a part of a community of believers seeking to resemble, serve, and love Jesus will you ever get to know him and grow into his likeness. “
Give this serious thought! Reconsider why Jesus describes himself as the Bread of Heaven. Jesus is our Feast. He gives us a foretaste of what is to come.
6 On this mountain the LORD Almighty will prepare
a feast of rich food for all peoples,
a banquet of aged wine—
the best of meats and the finest of wines.
7 On this mountain he will destroy
the shroud that enfolds all peoples,
the sheet that covers all nations;
8 he will swallow up death forever.
The Sovereign LORD will wipe away the tears
from all faces;
he will remove the disgrace of his people
from all the earth.
The LORD has spoken. Isaiah 25:5-8