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Saved From What?

August 23, 2011

This is an old post I stumbled upon from Justin Taylor @ Between Two Worlds.

As you talk about “salvation” with your kids—or with anyone!—here is a clarifying question: What are we saved from?

In his book Saved from What? R.C. Sproul recounts an encounter he had when teaching theology at Temple University back in the sixties.

On one such day I sought an hour’s solace and quietude from this cacophony in the faculty dining room. I stretched my lunch hour to the limit in order to squeeze out every moment of peace I could enjoy.

As the noon hour ended, I deposited my lunch tray in the bin and began my trek across the plaza to my classroom. I was walking briskly to avoid being late. I was alone, minding my own business. Suddenly, apparently out of nowhere, a gentleman appeared in front of me, blocking my forward progress. He looked me in the eye and asked directly, “Are you saved?”

I wasn’t quite sure how to respond to this intrusion. I uttered in response the first words that came into my mind: “Saved from what?” What I was thinking, but had the grace not to say, was, “I’m certainly not saved from strangers buttonholing me and asking me questions like yours.” But when I said, “Saved from what?” I think the man who stopped me that day was as surprised by my question as I had been by his. He began to stammer and stutter. Obviously he wasn’t quite sure how to respond.

“Saved from what? Well, you know what I mean. You know, do you know Jesus?” Then he tried to give me a brief summary of the gospel.

This serendipitous encounter left an impression on me. I experienced real ambivalence. On the one hand, I was delighted in my soul that someone cared enough about me, even though I was a stranger, to stop me and ask about my salvation. But it was clear that, though this man had a zeal for salvation, he had little understanding of what salvation is. He was using Christian jargon. The words fell from his lips without being processed by his mind. As a result, his words were empty of content. Clearly, the man had a love for Christ and a concern for people. Few Christians have the courage to engage perfect strangers in evangelistic discussion. But sadly, he had little understanding of what he was so zealously trying to communicate.

For a full answer to the question of “saved from what?” you can read Sproul’s book. But here’s the upshot:

We are saved by God, for God, from God.

Isn’t this what Paul is saying in 1 Thessalonians 1:9-10: “You turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come.”

This is something I try to keep my eye on when hearing gospel presentations. How is the “problem” being described? Is it merely “broken shalom,” or does it also include the judgment and wrath of God?

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