I closed yesterday’s post pondering why evangelicals were more committed to a wedding ceremony than to baptism, the ceremony the Bible prescribes in many places to demarcate one receiving Christ.
Are We Save by Receiving Jesus As Savior?
Let me answer that question somewhat circuitously with another question. Is a person saved by receiving Jesus as Savior? Or let me ask a different way. Is saving faith comprised of receiving Jesus as one’s Savior? Back to the prayer I mentioned in my previous post, a person can pray acknowledging that he is a sinner and the Christ died for his sin, and then receive Him as Savior, that is, receiving what Jesus did for him on the cross. Does that process accurately describe what one must do to be saved?
The Reductionist Nature of Receiving Christ As Savior
John 1:12 teaches that as many as received Him, He gave the authority to become children of God. Think about the difference between receiving Jesus and receiving Him as Savior.
Receiving Jesus connotes receiving him for all that He is: the Son of God, Savior, King of Kings, the Head of the body, and the many other roles that He fills. In a previous post we listed a number of those types of roles and the related relationship based on them. At the time of salvation most people are not familiar with many of those roles, not having a great deal of exposure to biblical teaching. However, the person “receiving Him” receives Christ to the extent that he understands who He is related to all those roles, and that should at least include His identity as the Son of God. If a person does not understand that aspect of who Jesus is, it would be difficult to know how He could be viewed as Savior.
However, if we receive Jesus as Savior, the term “as Savior” vastly reduces the extent to which a person receives Him. In other words, though Jesus fulfills all those roles mentioned above, this person is singling out His role as Savior, and not receiving Him in terms of any of those other roles: as King, as Head of the body, as Owner, as Groom, but only as Savior.
It is like a lifeguard at Ocean City, New Jersey, who develops a relationship with a girl who comes to swim every day. Finally he asks her to marry him, but she refuses. The next day she gets a cramp while swimming, and he dives in to save her. At that particular moment she is happy to receive him as her savior but still has no interest in receiving him as her husband.
A Lack of Obligation Related to Receiving Christ As Savior
The interesting aspect of receiving Jesus as Savior, is that, as with a lifeguard, that particular role carries with it no obligation on the part of the person being saved. Almost every other role that Jesus fills suggests a responsibility on the part of the one receiving Him. For example, if we acknowledge him as owner of all that we possess, that commits as to the obligation of being a faithful steward. If we receive Him as our Groom, then we obligate ourselves to be the “chaste virgin” Paul describes in 2 Corinthians 11:2.
Does Saving Faith Excludes Obligation
Many contemporary evangelicals view being saved as requiring only receiving Jesus as Savior. Therefore, the individual receives salvation without obligation. Those espousing this view see this as the biblical position, any obligation comprising a works salvation.
Those taking this position for the most part are not unconcerned about this person’s future Christian life. Rather, they believe that the Bible teaches that a biblical Christian life will result spontaneously from receiving Jesus as Savior in the absence of any commitment on the part of the person being saved. It would be sort of like a marriage without vows: No commitment on anyone’s part, but just the belief that since they love each other, at least at the moment, their relationship will blossom into something beautiful.
This Lack of Obligation Diminishing the Role of Baptism
Maybe this lack of obligation related to salvation constitutes the underlying reason for not placing much emphasis on baptism. We’re not talking about any commitment, so an ordinance symbolizing a commitment just does not fit the template and is unnecessary. On the other hand, they see the commitment related to marriage, and so a ceremony expressing that commitment is essential.
Does Saving Faith Actually Include Obligation?
This discussion brings us to the question of whether the Bible teaches that saving faith actually does entail a commitment. Is our relationship with Christ more like cohabitation than marriage, or at best a marriage without vows? I plan to address that on Monday’s post.