I am reading a great chapter in Hellerman’s When The Church Was a Family on salvation as a community-creating event. It is a staggering chapter that really challenges how we typically view the work of salvation in the Bible, especially what I see (as does Hellerman) as the disconnect in the church between soteriology and ecclesiology.
What was interesting was the way he compared how evangelicalism views salvation and how the Bible describes it. I can’t replicate the very helpful charts here but this is kind of how he broke it down:
Traditional evangelical model:
The relationship between God and a sinner is broken. At the cross that relationship is fixed and now the sinner and God are reconciled.
What Hellerman says the Bible describes is:
The world is estranged from God by sin. Through the cross God has reconciled for Himself a people out of this world.
That doesn’t do it justice by a long shot but you get the idea. In other words, while salvation is one sinner at a time the picture we get in the Bible is not of a bunch of individuals being saved but of a people being saved. The language of "accepting Jesus as my personal Savior" is absent entirely. Our common salvation unites us and our common identity is in being the people of God, saved from sin and saved out of the world. A new people, those who were not a people are now a people.
The language that the NT uses is powerful in this respect. As I was writing this I thought of that great passage in 1 Peter:
But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God's people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. (1 Peter 2: 9-10)
Notice that it is not “You were once not a person, now you are a person”. It is a people, His people. His is our God and we are His people. The very core of the New Covenant is that we are His people and He is our God (Jeremiah 31:33). We are not merely a bunch of autonomous born-again believers floating around. Salvation is not less than a sinner being redeemed but it is in many ways more than that. We are a new people, a “holy nation”.
What do you think about that? Do you think we are living out the created community of the redeemed in the church?
I am definitely going to need to reread that chapter a time or two.