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The Early Christian Plan of Salvation
January 09, 2024
I have told you I am bringing my Rebuilding the Foundations web site to Christian-history.org. Christian-history.org is where I report history and comment on it a bit. Rebuilding the Foundations is where I have expounded on the faith that was delivered to the saints as reported by the earliest of those saints. In other words, it is where I have defended the theology of the early church fathers from Scripture.
Much of what I write comes from answers to emails I have received. Today I was asked:
1. Are our sins covered and forgiven because of Jesus' bloodshed, or are our sins covered and forgiven because of our repentance because of Jesus' bloodshed?
2. Are believers going to face a judgment for our sins, or are all our sins pardoned?
Here was my reply, which is an excellent introduction to the kind of things I have been writing at Rebuilding the Foundations
First, I do not think I have all the answers, and what Jesus did on the cross was huge. Defining exactly what he did is outside my ability, and perhaps outside everyone's ability. If, however, your first question is practical, not so much theological, then I can answer.
How do we respond to the atonement?
We are empowered to live more righteously than we ever have, so we should do so and grow in it (2 Peter 1:3-7). We are not empowered to be perfect, so 1 John 1:7-2:2: Walk in the light and confess our sins. Our sins will not be forgiven if we keep living in them, but by that I don't mean words said in anger that you apologize for a minute or a day later. I don't mean that a profanity slipped out of your mouth when you stubbed your toe. I don't mean that you offended someone by what you said or did. I mean adultery, murder, uncontrolled wrath, treating your wife as inferior to you, demeaning others ... the greater sins.
I also really believe that us men who struggle with lust should be joined together overcoming pornography. We should be terrified until porn is eliminated from our lives. Acting out lust is one of the bigger sins, always included in the lists of sins that will keep us out of the kingdom of heaven (1 Cor. 6:9-11; Gal. 5:19-21; Eph. 5:3-6. Probably, each man will need help, an accountability partner, though not always.
That said, we will face a judgment for our sins. It is not, however, the evil judgment of the Calvinists where humans are held to an impossible standard. There are only 2 long descriptions of how we are judged. One is in Ezekiel 18:20-30, and the other is in Matthew 25:31-46. As you can see in those passages, God expects us to choose righteousness and grow in it. 2 Peter 1:3-11 explains this quite fully, and you will find a very similar explanation in Romans 7:24-8:13.
Romans 2:6 says that God will reward those who "patiently continue to do good" with eternal life. I think we can see in Galatians 6:7-9 that patiently continuing to do good (or "not growing weary in doing good") is the product of sowing to the Spirit.
We can walk in the light and live in ongoing forgiveness (1 Jn. 1:7). Then there will be nothing negative to follow us to the judgment.
To me, walking in the light is living exposed before God, no excuses, giving everything to living righteously, but never hiding where we've failed. Fixing those imperfections requires the power of God, so exposing ourselves (and our imperfections)--walking in the light--is mandatory.
So, couple notes: One, read the Scriptures I put in this email.
Two, there are actually more descriptions of the judgment in Ezekiel, chapters 3 and 33, but they're the same as Ezekiel 18.
Three, rejecting a final judgment according to works is the worst and most dangerous heresy of the Protestant Reformation. Not all Protestants reject it, nor have they all rejected it historically, but almost all evangelicals reject it today.
Romans 5:9-10 helps. We "have been" reconciled/justified/saved by faith apart from works by his death, and we "will be" saved from wrath through his life (by living by his life rather than by ours). The past-tense reconciliation empowers us for a life that will reward us at the judgment, but only if we "continue in the faith, steadfast and settled therein" (Colossians 1:22-23).
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