One Coin, Two Sides

One Coin, Two Sides

SINGLE SCRIPTURE THEOLOGY

Last Sunday I mentioned the danger of building our theology upon a single verse of Scripture. Specifically, I said we are all-too-eager to use one verse in crafting our understanding of salvation while dismissing other verses that address the same subject. 

For instance, we confidently point to Romans 10:9, “If you declare with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved,” while ignoring Matthew 6:5, “If you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.”

My statement caused SOME confusion. I will try to clear things up here. 

WHAT IS SALVATION

Salvation is experienced by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone. This gift from God is received when we place our trust in Jesus. We can proclaim this with complete confidence.

We receive salvation when trust, or believe in what Jesus accomplished upon the cross. Jesus often spoke the words, “Believe in me,” when describing what we would call salvation. To Martha, the sister of Lazarus, he said:

I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die.

John 11:25

Again, belief in Jesus is our part in receiving salvation. Paul and Silas were asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved—you and your household (Acts 16:30-31).”

We must, however, wrestle with the teaching of Scripture that mental acknowledgment alone is inadequate for salvation. James 2:19 tells us that the demons of Hell “believe,” but no one would conclude that salvation is given to them by God upon their belief. 

Scripture calls us to an all-in, complete-surrender, full-commitment kind of “belief.” A saving faith, trust, or belief occurs when we recognize Jesus Christ is Lord and surrender our lives to his authority. 

Second Side of the coin

To believe in Jesus is one side of the “salvation coin.” There is a second side, part of the same coin, but one that looks much different than the other. For most of our churched lives we have focused on this single side of the coin. 

If all you have seen for all of your life is the “heads” side of a quarter you would not identify the “tails” side, the side you have never seen before, as a quarter. You would say, “I’ve seen a quarter more times than I can count, and that is not a quarter.”

The “tails” side of the “salvation quarter,” the side we too often miss, is a life of obedience. We are not saved by that obedience because salvation is “not by works so that no one can boast (Ephesians 2:9).” Saved individuals will strive to live in obedience to the Word of God. Saved individuals have a yearning in their hearts to fully follow Jesus. 

A saved person who fully embraces the comfort of Romans 10:9 will also fully embrace the challenge of Matthew 6:5. A saved person who trusts John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life,” will also trust James 2:26, “As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.”

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the brilliant theologian of the twentieth century, coined the phrase, “cheap grace,” in this book, “The Cost of Discipleship.” Bonhoeffer wrote,

Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, and communion without confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, “The Cost of Discipleship”

Live out the Exceptions of our Salvation

My purpose Sunday was to challenge us all to pray as Jesus taught; “Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins against us.” I referenced Matthew 6:5 to underscore the importance of a willingness and determination to forgive others.

If you trust in the death of Jesus upon the cross as God’s plan for paying the cost of your sins you, my friend, are a saved citizen within the Kingdom of God. We must, however, understand that expectations come with that salvation. Our Lord Jesus expects us to fully follow him. 

This is the message I had hoped to convey on Sunday. That to simply acknowledge the fact that a man named Jesus died upon a cross in order to bring salvation is, frankly, insufficient for salvation. Salvation is given by God to those who recognize that Jesus died in their place upon the cross and surrender their lives over to the authority of the resurrected, triumphant, victorious King of kings and Lord of lords.