What comes to your mind with the term “theology of salvation”? Are you fascinated by the prospect of finding some new knowledge? Or is the subject about as exciting as multiplication tables are to a young boy whose imagination is occupied by a fishing pole and a new pocket knife?
This is not a criticism of those unexcited about theology. The desire for knowledge may not always be as noble as it sounds anyway. Regardless, the feelings of attraction or aversion are real — and they reflect something of what the subject means to us personally. So let me paint you a picture.
The sinking boat rolled violently in the heavy seas. The poor fisherman was left with nothing to hold onto as the dusk rapidly faded in the face of the oncoming storm. It was a miracle that he had earlier noticed the glint of light reflecting off the ship on the horizon; but had they seen his signal? They had! The ship was turning toward him. After much waiting, the shivering, exhausted man watched eagerly as the life ring was tossed, and seized it with all his might. His cold hands clutched it desperately as a kind sailor pulled him up out of the waves. His life was saved!
Do you suppose the fisherman was troubled by considering how he had been saved? Was it his own effort — signalling frantically, treading the water, grasping the life ring? Or was it the kind sailor, or perhaps even the rope that had saved him?
I do not submit this simple allegory to suggest any doctrinal teaching on salvation. My point is simply this: to one who had been dying, the miracle of salvation would naturally capture the heart and call forth an unending attitude of gratefulness to the Savior. God may use various means to bring us to Heaven, just as the rope, the life ring, and the fisherman’s own outstretched arms were used to rescue him. Yet our salvation is entirely a work of God’s grace, purchased by and obtained through Jesus Christ alone. Perhaps we might say He requires everything from us, while in the end doing all the work Himself anyway.
As a person who is saved, you need not understand the exact details of the process; you need only worship at the feet of the Savior. But as His disciples, we may serve Him better if we study His ways and His means, so that we may better participate with Him in His desire to draw others into safety. But as we study, the focus of our life and love remains on Christ.
Our new article for this month, The Election of God, comes from the pen of Paul Shirk as a sort of sequel to An Examination of Calvinism. It further explains what the Bible tells us about how man chooses, and God determines.