Among my struggles has been catching glimpses of what Scripture says about the Christian life and seeing the contrast with what so many of us (including me) seem to think the Christian life is. As I've mulled this over, one recurring them has been the whole issue of Acceptance.
I mentioned to Alan in an email that I'm pretty sure I don't believe in the "Final Perseverance" in the Calvinistic sense, and I'm slowly realizing I don't even believe in "Eternal Security" in the more evangelical sense. Of course I don't mean to say that a child of God can perish, but I think both of those concepts falls far short of what Scripture actually teaches.
Romans 4:6–8 quotes Psalm 32:1–2 to establish the doctrine of justification by faith alone (what my buddy Steve calls Solifidianism). What is "the blessedness" of the man whom God justifies? It's that God will not at all count his sins against him (Romans 4:7). For the man whom God has justified (the ungodly man, v. 5), there is no sin that God will remember (see Acts 13:39). No matter what terrible sin I commit, God won't count it against me.
Think about that! It's not that God will one day forgive his sins, nor even that he's the kind of person whom God repeatedly forgives. It's that he is the kind of person whose sins God doesn't count.
Leviticus 1–7 outline the laws of the offerings. There are five offerings mentioned: the burnt offering (chap. 1), the grain offering (chap. 2), the peace offering (chap. 3), the sin offering (chap. 4), and the trespass offering (chap. 5). The next two chapters (Leviticus 6–7) then run through those offerings again, detailing the laws associated with them.
We tend to think first about the trespass offering, which was offered for deliberate offenses (Leviticus 6:1–5). This is the offering you were to make if you defrauded your neighbor. If we think about it a little more, we might think about the sin offering, which was offered for sins of inadvertence (Leviticus 4:1–3). In those two offerings we might see a picture of our sins and our sin. But God doesn't start with either of those two offerings: He starts with the burnt offering. What is the burnt offering, it's the offering of acceptance (Leviticus 1:3).
God accepts us before He deals with our sin (what we are), or our sins (what we have done).
The order is preserved in Ephesians. In Ephesians 1 the order is:
- God chose us in Christ (v. 4)
- God has accepted us "in the Beloved" (v. 6)
- we have redemption and forgiveness (v. 7)
That's not to say that God doesn't forgive our sins. It's not even to say that there is a time gap between acceptance and forgiveness. But from God's perspective, our being accepted is foundational truth. It's not that we have some sort eternal security safety net: rather, we have been accepted right at the start. Before we take the first step in that new creation, we have been accepted by God.
Ephesians 1:6 brings in a truth we don't see in Leviticus: we are accepted in Christ. We aren't called to an autonomous life, we're called to a dependent life. We're not called to be good, but to bask in His goodness.
And now we're back once more to the fundamental truth of the Christian life. Regardless of how we actually live, the entire Christian experience flows from our being in Christ. If our experience differs from the high calling of the epistles, it's because we have not been content to "abide" in Him (John 15:4). If we find our lives lacking in fruit, the solution is to abide (John 15:5).