As Christians, we often think of what we are saved from. Or what we are saved to.
We are saved from sin, the wrath of God and eternal judgment. We are saved to eternal life and a relationship with God through Jesus Christ.
But have you ever considered, what is your salvation for?
John Stonestreet, speaker, author and president of the Colson Center for Christian Worldview, posed this question to attendees at the 2019 Disciple-Making Conference, held Tuesday, Feb. 26 at Green Street Baptist Church in High Point.
The question is one that Stonestreet has pondered for a long time, even as a youth. If we’re only saved from hell to heaven, why does God wait? Why doesn’t He take us immediately to heaven when we’re saved?
The answer, Stonestreet said, can be found in Jesus’ high priestly prayer in John 17. As Jesus prays in verse 15 that His followers be protected from the evil one and that they not be taken out of the world, Jesus is praying for God’s ultimate purpose to be fulfilled.
Jesus prays that people would come to know Him, and by coming to know Him they would glorify the Son, and by glorifying the Son they would glorify the Father, which is the ultimate purpose for all of creation.
God’s plan for His ultimate purpose to be fulfilled involves believers remaining in the world and being protected from the evil one, Stonestreet said.
Jesus’ prayer in John 17 reveals at least two things our salvation is not for.
Our salvation is not for escape.
Although Christians may attempt to retreat from culture, we can never fully escape it, Stonestreet said.
“You can’t escape culture because of the way God has made us,” Stonestreet said, noting that culture, in and of itself is not evil.
“The Bible doesn’t teach that the world is a bad place,” Stonestreet said. “The Bible teaches that the world is a good place that has fallen thoroughly.”
Stonestreet defined culture as the product of humans making something of the world, which was God’s design going back to Genesis 1 and the garden of Eden. When God created the world, He declared it “good.” Part of that goodness involves the human capacity to make something of the world.
“The problem isn’t the structure of the world,” Stonestreet said. “The problem is the direction that humans have taken the world.”
Humans have “misdirected a God-given good away from its God-given purpose,” Stonestreet said.
Not only can we not escape culture because of how God made us, “you shouldn’t try to escape culture because of how God has revealed Himself to us.”
“Reconciled ones are saved for the work of reconciliation.”
Stonestreet said both the written Word of God and the Living Word of God both reveal that God’s trajectory throughout history has been to come into His creation.
In the Old Testament, we see God come down to visit Adam and Eve. God walked with Enoch. God worked with Noah. God called Abram. God embodied a pillar of fire and a pillar of cloud to lead the Israelites out of Egypt. God dwelt in the tabernacle. God came down and revealed Himself through the prophets. In the New Testament, God reveals Himself through Jesus Christ who took on flesh and dwelt among us.
“If God’s trajectory to this world is not to escape … then our trajectory can’t be escape either,” Stonestreet said.
Our salvation is not for accommodation.
Every generation of the church involves a temptation to accommodate to the culture as cultural values shift, Stonestreet said. Changing values in the culture often put pressure on the church to compromise.
Stonestreet said shifting cultural values seem to pit God’s truth and God’s love against one another.
“What we’re told is, ‘If you love your neighbor, you’ve got to change your mind about what God says.’” Stonestreet said. “Or, ‘If you love God and want to be faithful to what God says, then you can’t be loving to your neighbor.’»
“We cannot understand our faith as if God’s morality and God’s gospel are somehow in conflict with one another.”
Scripture, however, reveals that truth and love are a person — Jesus Christ.
Our salvation is for reconciliation.
Stonestreet said 2 Corinthians 5:17 tells us what salvation is — it is becoming a new creation in Christ. The following verses tell us what salvation is for.
Quoting from 2 Corinthians 5:18-19, Stonestreet said, “God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation.”
“Reconciled ones are saved for the work of reconciliation,” Stonestreet said. “Reconciled ones are called to be reconcilers. And it’s to be done in the context of this cultural moment where God has placed us.”
EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the first in a two-part series from the 2019 N.C. Baptist Disciple-Making Conference. Part two is available here.