An Overview of Soteriology and the Economy of God
Certainly the apex of God’s salvation of humanity in regards to His economy is the life, ministry, suffering, death, resurrection, return, final triumph and judgment of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. This was complete and sufficient for our salvation and for the salvation of all people throughout all time and in all places who would ever live, even enough for those who might not ever receive this salvation. That is not to say that all people will be saved. Some will be damned, unfortunately, though I wish they would be saved by embracing faith.
However, in order for this salvation to be applied to us we must trust the Father by believing in Jesus Christ, the One He sent as the sacrifice for our failures, our sins, our passion that drives us to sacrifice, that yields an empty allotment, that carries us off to a final destination that ends pregnancy in death. This is what he was sacrificed for. It satisfies that same desire for sacrifice, but does not yield an empty allotment. It produces the inheritance of God! It does not carry us off to a final destination, we willingly follow Christ to the predestined place of those who are saved. It does not end pregnancy in death. God gives us new birth as a specific kind of a new beginning and authority of a new life. What Jesus brings us into and what He brings into us is simply amazing compared to what sin does to us. This is the radical revolution in us that is absolutely effectual in the economy of God, but only as we follow His particular will for each of our lives.
Works vs Faith
Why should we pit works against faith? Because the question comes of whether our works can save us. But this is not the same question as whether we must do works in order to be saved. These are two completely different questions and the distinction is absolutely critical to resolving the relationship between faith and works in the salvation of the Christian.
Scripture says clearly that we are saved by faith, not by works, and this not of ourselves. It also says that we were created in Christ Jesus to do good works that the Father had laid out in advance for us. We also read where some who believed in Christ in the end will claim by their works that they were working for the Father, but Christ will reject them because they did not do the actual will of the Father. The two sons in the parable where one says he will work and does not and the one who says he will not and does, Jesus points out that it was not about the words, but what was actually done that showed the love for the father.
When the relevant Scriptures are laid side by side the issue is not so clear as some would have it made out to be. However, I propose that we have specific works the Father has indeed laid out in advance for us and we can only know what these are by being in an actual relationship with Him, seeking His will, and doing what He guides us individually to do. And if we are unwilling to do this, either because we are unwilling to do anything or because we want to decide on our own what we want to do (even picking only things from the Scripture as those in the end did before Jesus and were rejected), we are flirting with disaster. Judgment belongs to God and He gives that to whomever He wishes, including His Son. But when we are judged in the end it will be too late to change your theology and start behaving in the right way to please our Heavenly Father in the particular way He has already planned for you.
Jesus’ own actions demonstrated this. When the Pharisees criticized Him for eating the wheat from the fields on the Sabbath, they were complaining that Jesus was not doing the will of the Father as they believed had been revealed in general through the religious leaders. Yet, Jesus perfectly did the will of the Father and our faith in Him declares that this is the truth about His life. God put the religious leaders in charge of the people and they told the people what the general will of God was, coming up with this by examining the Scriptures and using reasoning to conclude it. Jesus criticized this by saying “You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you have eternal life, yet you refuse to come to me, the giver of Life.” This was a harsh condemnation, not only of the Pharisees, but of anyone who wants to extrapolate the will of the Father by applying reason to Scripture and laying out what to do and what not to do. The Pharisees had been cutting out the personal relationship every person should have with the Father and replacing it with minuscule rules that simulated particularity in God’s will. Instead, we must come to the giver of Life and listen to what the will of the Father is in particular for each one of us. It will never conflict with the Scriptures and what they clearly say we must and must not do. So the Scriptures act as a kind of guidepost.
When John said in his first letter to test the spirits, he was saying that because there are in fact spirits and they do in fact whisper to people and get them to believe certain things and then that person will declare these things, even among the congregation of believers. We must test them. But how do we test them? John laid out a brief theological test in his first letter, in particular regarding the issue of faith, love, and works. Any spirit that says Jesus did not come in the flesh, this spirit is not of God and every spirit that confesses that Jesus came in the flesh, this spirit is of God. This was in the context of faith, love, and works. True love expresses itself in action by the power of faith. Faith empowers any action we are capable of doing that will be worth anything. But how it does that is what is important. Just doing something and convincing ourselves that this is from God, that is not enough. That is not at all what faith is. That is delusion. We must come to the Father and ask Him, then do. If we are able to do both of these, then we must have faith. It is impossible to come before God, trusting that He has good for us if we do not have faith; likewise, it is impossible to demonstrate faith without works. What particular works God has laid out for you, that must be discovered through your faith and your trust to come before the Father and depend on Him to govern your life.
As Jacob says, any person who wants to govern their own life, determining what in particular they are to do for works, they are like a violent agitation of the sea driven by the wind and hastily thrown flat on the ground. They must not think at all that they will receive anything from God when they ask.
That is why also Jesus says to Peter that someone will lead him where he does not want to go, indicating his martyrdom, but also corrects him when he complains about another disciple, John. Jesus clarifies to Peter that it is the Father’s particular will for each person that is important and that we cannot compare one life to another. We can only ask, Did that person have a personal relationship with the Father to know what His particular will for his life was and did he do that particular will?
You do not want to get to the end of your life and then to the Judgment of God only for Jesus to say, Away from me you evildoer! I never knew you. Will you argue with Christ that you did all of the things you thought you should do as a believer in Him and even did them in His name? You already see that this is insufficient for pleasing Him. You have been governing your own life long enough! Stop doing evil by following your own idea of what God’s will is and come to God! Throw yourself on Him and beg His mercy for your evil attitude and beg Him to show you what you should do with your particular life. It is the only way to make your salvation authentic.
Why else would the authors of the New Testament call themselves bond-servants and slaves of God? They have given up governing their own lives and have truly trusted God. What are you waiting for? Any day could be too late. You do not know what will happen with your live today.