If you ordered a tall, skinny, salvation latte, you would be getting forgiveness of sins and a home in heaven. I prefer, however, a venti, whole milk, hazelnut salvation latte. And what I get here is the opportunity to participate in the full and final purposes of God for all creation. Glory. I’ll take the venti.
I am convinced that when Paul talks about salvation he has in mind a participation in the coming age of salvation. Salvation represents for him, not just a change in personal status (condemned to justified), but the coming day of the Lord. Christians are those “upon whom the end of the ages has fallen” (1 Cor 10:11). We are being delivered from this present, evil age, and saved to belong to the coming new age of God’s glory (Gal1:4). Put another way, salvation consists in belonging to a different day ruled by a different power. This new day in a new power is nothing less than a new creation. “Behold,” Paul says, “everything old has passed away. Everything is becoming new” (2 Cor 5:17). Everything.
We miss this bit about everything, even when its in verses we love. We have all seen a cross-stitch on a wall somewhere, “We know that everything works together for good for those who love God and are called according to his purposes.” But we typically miss the context.
“Creation eagerly waits,” Paul says, “for the revealing of the children of God. For creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will, but by the will of the one who subjected it…” Are you ready for what comes next? “…in hope that creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and obtain the glorious freedom of the children of God” (Rom 8:19-21). Yep, that’s what it says. That’s some venti salvation. We belong to that day. We are the firstfruits of that day. As the people of the Spirit, we are evidence that a new power has been set free in creation–a power that overcomes death and brings life to everything.
In our last post, we noticed that for Paul the word of the cross is power. The way of the cross is a certain way of practicing life that participates in the power of God. How is God bringing about a new day, in a new power for the sake of a new creation? Through love. Through the love of God for the other, for us, for enemies, for those who do not yet love him. This love is demonstrated in the life of Jesus, most fully in his death–a death for others. This is God’s renewing power.
Power, the kind that renews and remakes all things, is not the kind that controls things. We want God to have this kind of power sometimes because we want to believe that someone is controlling this mess. But this kind of power is made effective only through limits, by making things smaller, by reducing life. And its hard to get anything new from that. Love, on the other hand, especially the yielding, submitting, steadfast, while we were sinners kind of love, makes things bigger and more generous and new. This kind of power changes things and has the opportunity to make all things new. This kind of power is life itself.
Paul says that this love has been poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit (Rom 5:5). Through this power–when we love this way–we participate in the realities of the coming age of salvation. Venti salvation. Everything has become new salvation. Through the work of the Spirit, we are being transformed from one degree of glory to another. We are being saved. Renewed in the image of the creator, who loved us and gave himself up for us. Being saved. Venti, please.