Good News: God’s Purpose, Our Purpose
In my most recent blog posts, I have suggested that a good way to summarize what the New Testament writers see as “Good News” is this:
God loves us so much that God wants us to know –
- We are more valuable than we think.
- We are more broken and bent than we think.
- We are more salvageable than we think.
Remembering that phrases like “Jesus saves” and “Are you saved?” have become so clichéd and so often misused, it is important to fill our readings of the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament with the writers’ content—that meanings such as liberation, healing, rescue, being made whole, and being kept safe are all translations of the word “save” in both Biblical Testaments.
With that content in mind, it is fascinating to pursue the “being saved now” part of the New Testament writers’ claims (as opposed to the past-tense or future-tense understandings of salvation). In this and my next blog, I will note some of the “in process” passages and then note some of the “in process” images used in the New Testament. Both are far too often ignored in preaching and teaching in favor of the past tense and future tense aspects of God’s desire to “salvage” his valuable creation.
Some Process Passages:
- 1 Corinthians 1:18 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.
Note: In 1 Corinthians 1:18-31, Paul argues that God has “foolishly” chosen to move his historical purpose forward through the co-laboring of human beings—Jesus as means and model—and the rest of us through our relationship with what God has done in Jesus. Just how “foolish” God’s choice looks has just been illustrated by Paul’s very negative critique of what this fellowship at Corinth has been doing to dishonor Jesus—1 Corinthians 1:10 ff. Nevertheless, God has chosen us humans to co-labor in the process of God’s salvation. 2000 years of church history have done nothing to cause most of us to want to remove the wistful “foolishness of God” description of this decision by God.
- 1 Corinthians 15:1-2 – Now I would remind you, brothers and sisters, of the good news that I proclaimed to you, which you in turn received, in which also you stand, 2through which also you are being saved, if you hold firmly to the message that I proclaimed to you—unless you have come to believe in vain.
Note: Paul began this letter describing the past historical content of the Good News of God’s Salvation through the faithful life of Jesus ending in his execution on a Roman cross. Paul is not about to move on to an insistence on the importance of the future content of this Good News. But here, his emphasis is on the fact that this is a current work of God in the lives of the members of the fellowship at Corinth. And, he urges them to co-labor with God in this process by not failing to “hold firmly” to the content of the Good News.
- 1 Pet 1:9-10 – For you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls. Concerning this salvation, the prophets, who spoke of the grace that was to come to you, searched intently and with the greatest care…
Note: The author of 1 Peter also speaks of the content of the Good News in terms of past and future content, yet this short letter is mainly focused on the current process of co-laboring with God in God’s great process of salvaging valuable humanity from our obvious brokenness. The main emphasis of the letter is that this co-laboring with God means relating to what God has done in Jesus as both the means and the model for our current lives in an age of history in which we will never feel fully at home. How could we?
- 1 Pet 2:2 Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation….
Note: Again, this letter never backs away from the challenge to participate as co-laborers in the “now process” of allowing God to salvage our valuable humanness right now. (Peter is quoted in Acts 2:40 as having this same focus in the very first cross and resurrection sermon – “Save yourselves” is where that sermon concludes.)
These and other New Testament passages are very important in their explicit statements that God’s liberation, healing, wholeness, and rescuing are something God wants to be doing right now in the believers’ lives and would love to be invited to work in every human’s life. Yet, in many ways, the images that the New Testament writers use to describe and illustrate this current work of “God’s salvation” are even more enlightening. My next post will engage some of these powerful process images of God’s desire to work in our lives.
Pastor Ron Simkins