Jesus Creed

Jesus Creed

Salvation vs. Discipleship

For a long time in my teaching career I have worked with these two terms (salvation vs. discipleship), especially when it came to the teachings of Jesus on ethics. It permits good discussion about both the gospel and “the bottom line.” I’ve given up these two terms as a template through which I process the NT message of the gospel and redemption, for a variety of reasons.
Here’s a question that really gets it going: “What do you have when you’ve got it?” That is, when it comes to the gospel and redemption and salvation, “what do you have when you’ve got it?”
The answer to this question (either one, actually) drives home the issue. Here are some things you’ve “got”.
1. Forgiveness
2. Reconciliation
3. Justification
4. Redemption
5. Sanctification
Notice that these are the big time terms for the Protestant gospel. None of which, at least in emphasis, is a word of importance to Jesus’ own teachings. I do think he used “forgiveness” often enough to weaken my point some, but the simple fact is that sometimes forgiveness for Jesus means healing and sometimes it refers to the nation’s forgiveness. So, grant me the basic point. If you do, I’ll make this point:
If we define what we “get” in bigger terms, we suddenly land in a gospel that is big enough to encompass the whole Bible and the whole design of God for us and our world. It becomes the gospel of the kingdom.
What if we add these?
Reconciliation with others until it turns into justice
Reconciliation with others until it turns into love for others
Reconciliation with God until it turns into peace and love of God
Reconciliation with other believers until it turns into the Church
Reconciliation with others until it becomes community
Reconciliation with the world enough until it becomes governance
Reconciliation with others enough until it fights against systemic injustices.
I use “reconciliation” here because I think God’s work is primarily relational.
What if we defined the gospel then not so much by what we “get” but we are summoned to? That the summons of God is to join him in his restoring and redeeming work. That the reason for the gospel is transform us to be the Eikons he made us to be.
God embraces us with his embracing grace so we can learn to embrace ourselves as his Eikons and so we can embrace others and the world.
Then, but maybe only then, we’d not need to posit salvation over against discipleship.

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posted October 27, 2005 at 9:11 am

I agree with much of what you state here. What you call “summons” is what I have called “invitation.” God seems to place a high value on our decision to respond to an invitation to “follow” – to relate to Him – in Christ, in Holy Spirit, as Father. I like the term reconciliation here as it places the activity and responsibility on people in relationship – desiring relationship to the King and His Kingdom, as well as each other.

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posted October 27, 2005 at 9:20 am

I love your use of the word “reconciliation”. Bravo. I have begun to view this life and God’s plan of salvation” in light of the first three chapters of Genesis. Think about it: what relationships were broken in the Fall? The relationships between Man and Self, Man and Man, Man and Nature, and Man and God. And Jesus spent his ministry reconciling all of these broken relationships. Salvation, it its most basic form, is the ultimate act of reconciliation.
Interesting, then, how Paul says that now OUR job is reconciliation. We may not be able to reconcile Man to God, but all the other relationships we can help heal. And so not only is reconciliation the real sum of the Gospel, but it’s also the sum of our role on earth as the Church.

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Kerry Doyal

posted October 27, 2005 at 10:04 am

Did I miss the classy tip of the hat to the White Sox? ? ? 😉

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Kerry Doyal

posted October 27, 2005 at 10:16 am

Scot, help me understand how you don’t tempt separating Jesus teachings from the teaching of the Apostles (the rest of the New Test.). That is, crassly put: Jesus taught A, but Paul taught B, and Jesus’ has supremecy over their teachings (as opposed their continuing, filling in HIS teaching). (My previoius tease about the red letter bible.)
I like the fleshed out reconciliation list. Good stuff. Yet your list of the big five (Forgiveness, Reconciliation, Justification, Redemption, Sanctification) I see in Jesus’s teaching too.
Speaking of reconciled – Cubs fans rejoicing with Sox fans. The Kingdom comes a bit more each day.

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posted October 27, 2005 at 10:30 am

I think that being made like Jesus IS our salvation. We are “saved” from the chains of sin. Not the “punishment” of sin or something like that, but from the necessity to sin. If we as the Church embraced the reality of the Kingdom of God, it would mean that we’d be living in our freedom from sin. That would be revolutionary!

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posted October 27, 2005 at 11:33 am

Yes, relationality (the warmth of reconciliation). I would even beef it up a bit and say existential relationality… this is what makes questions such great appologetics to the post-modern ear.
My two favorite questions in the Bible: Genesis, in the garden, God asking, “Where are you?” A question of proximity. John 1, after John says, “Look the Lamb…” and his disciples start following Jesus, Jesus turns around to them and asks, “What do you want?” To me, a question of priority. And all they wanted to know at that time was where he was staying, and he said, “Come and see” and they spent the day with him…. the crux of this relational Gospel. Who wants to be saved by a God they can never know intimately?
Existential relational proximity. Existential relational priority. MM Bakhtin wrote, “I am conscious of myself and become myself only while revealing myself for another, through another, and with the help of another….I cannot manage without another, I cannot become myself without another; I must find myself in another by finding another in myself (in mutual reflection and mutual acceptance).”

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Jamie Arpin-Ricci

posted October 27, 2005 at 11:39 am

Excellent look at these questions. I would add:
Reconciliation with Creation until it turns into a sacramental relationship

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Stacey Littlefield

posted October 27, 2005 at 3:25 pm

I, too, find that I less and less like to even use the terms “salvation” and “discipleship”, Scot. They no longer communicate.
This reminds me of something (and this is a very rough paraphrase) I remember Brian McLaren saying/writing on this topic of what it means to be “saved”. We can be saved FROM something, saved TO something and saved FOR something. In one sense, we have really gotten hold of the idea of what it means to be saved FROM sin and judgment and even what it means to be saved TO something (i.e. our lives hidden with Christ in God). But we have much to learn about what it means to be saved FOR something, like reconciliation and a new, better, Kingdom way of life.
Kerry, I understand your concern about the temptation to separate the teachings of Jesus from the rest of the NT. But, at the risk of sounding a bit heretical, is there a sense in which Protestantism (at least that of which I’ve been a part) is guilty of emphasizing the teachings of Paul over and above the teachings of Jesus; or, at least, interpreting Jesus THROUGH Paul. Maybe this is a much needed corrective(?). Thanks for the discussion.

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John Frye

posted October 27, 2005 at 7:46 pm

Scot, once again you raise the topic to a new level (or new depth). You’re going against the current of “gimme, gimme” spirituality. Like the good Jewish prophet Jesus was, he called for active participation in the kingdom, costly participation–he commanded people to do something. Thanks for re-imagining salvation as a highly dynamic, relational reality.

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posted October 27, 2005 at 11:28 pm

I concur with most everyone here…I love what you’re doing with “the Gospel”. However, I’m struggling with how to SAY this to people who aren’t pastors and theologians.
I have a 13 year old son, and I recently talked with him in depth about the Gospel and it just wasn’t easy. I couldn’t bring myself to just do the Romans Road stuff…I was compelled to try and help him see WHY God forgave him, WHY God sought reconciliation with him, WHY God created him.
It does seem you are getting at much of this, but, okay, I’m rambling, and what I’m trying to say is that this sounds good to me – someone w/ a theological background – but it seems difficult to explain in terms even a teenager can understand.

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Ron Fay

posted October 28, 2005 at 12:33 am

Wouldn’t this all fit within or else “under the umbrella of” the Kingdom of God teaching by Jesus? I, too, think you might be making too strong of a dichtomoy (though you admittedly make a weak one to begin with) between the teaching of Jesus versus the rest of the NT/Bible. Yes, Ladd’s paradigm can be overused, but clearly the key theme in Jesus’ own teaching was the metaphor of the kingdom, even if He touched on many other things throughout His teachings (especially in John).
I would like to know how you would reconcile the KoG motif with what you have outlined above.

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Scot McKnight

posted October 28, 2005 at 8:34 am

I need to get back to this post and comment but can’t find the time just right now.
But I have to say this: I can’t for the life of me see why some think I’m positing Jesus against Paul here: the major term in the second list is a Pauline term. What I do want to see is Kingdom language be used and that I think Kingdom language is bigger than some soteriological terms used by Paul, but if you read my posts you will know that I don’t think there is that big of a difference. The difference between Jesus and Paul, apart from some term differences (Kingdom vs. variety), came as a result of distortions of Paul not from Paul parting company with Jesus. I see Kingdom and Ekklesia are major overlaps. Not Kingdom and Justification (the latter is a description of those in the Kingdom).
Ron I had a long series on Kingdom way back and in that I showed how Kingdom was morphed in Paul into other terms. No problem for me.
Franklin — big question. I need to think about this. First, though, it is about how we live and what we say about Jesus and inviting people into living with Jesus.
But, let me think — and remind me if I forget to come back to your question. Perhaps a separate post on that topic alone.

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Jim Martin

posted October 28, 2005 at 10:59 am

A great post! I find your use of reconciliation to be very helpful. The way you have phrased each one of these statements (the reconciliation statements) really does communicate the relational aspect of the gospel. I want to spend some time with these statements and flesh them out.
By the way–I am missing the Jesus against Paul emphasis here as per some of the comments.

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Dana Ames

posted October 28, 2005 at 12:28 pm

What if the “why” is because God is about making his human beings truly human, and has in principle taken everything out of the way that would prevent us becoming so? Fits in with your idea of Eikons quite neatly.

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Kerry Doyal

posted October 28, 2005 at 7:13 pm

Scot, I guess this phrase after your “Big Five” – my word 😉 can seem a “Jesus – vs – NT Episltes / Paul.”
“Notice that these are the big time terms for the Protestant gospel. None of which, at least in emphasis, is a word of importance to Jesus’ own teachings.”
Even if Jesus did not use those specific words often or at all, it does not mean He did not address – even at length – these concepts. Thus the sense / question of a dichotomy. Hope that helps make sense of the question.

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posted March 18, 2010 at 1:21 am

PLEASE, view this Chart Biblically distinguishing between Discipleship truth & Salvation truth! Thx!

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