In a sermon from the series The Christian’s Duty in a Hostile World, John MacArthur connects two glorious truths: the centrality of Jesus’ resurrection and that “faith cannot be removed or detached from the realm of real life.”
It is no great surprise to me that I enjoyed Bob’s book so much, or that he seems to be enjoying mine. For while their subjects may seem disconnected at first glance, in reality they have everything to do with each other!
The truth that lies behind Bob’s view of both the individual’s need for transformation and the need for the church to impact society is well expressed by MacArthur:
Salvation is not just forgiveness for sins. Salvation is a new order of life . . . when we understand salvation in a biblical way, we must understand that salvation effects a whole transformation of life. It is not just the forgiveness of sins, it is the transformation of life.
MacArthur goes on to explain that our woeful neglect of the resurrection has led to a terrible misunderstanding:
You might be interested to know that as central as the cross is in Christianity, it was not really the central focus of the early church. The early church saw much more in salvation than just the moment at which Christ atoned for sins, the moment in which He died on the cross. The early church saw salvation in much broader terms than that. The early church saw salvation as something that only began with the forgiveness of sins and led to a life transformed into obedience and consummated in the glory with Jesus Christ. It is interesting that even history sort of reflects this. In his book, Civilization, author Kenneth Clark shows that the cross as such was a very late symbol in Christian art and Christian culture. When we think about Christianity, we think immediately about the cross as the symbol of our faith. You might be interested to know that as far as that book, Civilization, determined the first appearance of the cross in Christian art or culture occurred in A.D. 430, all the way into the fifth century, on the doors of the church at Santa Sobina(?) and that that cross was a very small little cross inset into some piece of Christian art.
The early church did not focus on the cross. The early church focused on what great event? The resurrection. It focused its attention on the resurrection. And consequently its preoccupation was not with the point at which sin is forgiven, but the point at which new life begins. And the resurrection is that point. We, of course, died in Christ spiritually and in that death the penalty of sin was paid. But we also arose in Christ, says Paul, to walk in newness of life. To be saved then to the early church, and surely to us as well, was not just to have your sin forgiven. It was not just some transaction which dealt with your guilt. But rather to be saved was to be delivered from the power of darkness and to be translated into the kingdom of God’s dear Son. In other words, it was to enter in to an entirely new kind of life, to enter into a new sphere of existence. Salvation is not just atonement. Salvation is not just forgiveness. Salvation is regeneration. It is transformation. It is the imparting of a new kind of life, the life of God in the soul of man.
Why do so few Christian preachers today grasp this fully?
But MacArthur doesn’t leave us there. He goes on to explain that if life transformation has happened in you, then good works are the inevitable result. As Bob Roberts likes to put it “We serve not to convert but because we are converted.”
MacArthur then explains that every single Christian has a unique contribution to make to the Kingdom effort. I can almost hear Bob talking about using your job to connect to the nations:
So you have a special gift. It’s a combination of the colors, as it were, on the palette of giftedness that come together to make you unique and there’s nobody like you, absolutely no one like you . . . So you take that unique gift in a unique ministry with a unique effect with a measured amount of grace and a measured amount of faith and then you add your physical capabilities, your training, your background, your opportunities, your environment and all your influences and you function like nobody else…nobody else. That’s why there’s nobody to replace you if you don’t function. That’s the extent of spiritual gifts.
So there you have it: Because salvation is not only about forgiveness of sins but the start of a new life begun by the resurrection of Jesus, Christians have a duty in this world to spread that new life, not only by preaching but also by acts of kindness that stem from a transformed heart.