What about salvation?

The Relational Pastor, part 13

For other posts in this series, click on a number: 12345678, 9101112, 1415.

Last time in this series in Andrew Root's book, The Relational Pastor, we saw that Christian ministry is fundamentally about joining Jesus in sharing the lives of other persons. "But," some might object, "isn't our job as pastors to get people saved?" Root answers by pointing out that rather than a transaction (based on a forensic model of the atonement), salvation should be understood as an enduring relationship with God, for "in union with God we are saved" (p148).


This Trinitarian incarnational, relational view of salvation holds Christology and soteriology (the theology of salvation) closely together. It acknowledges that Jesus, in his divine-human person, is our salvation. Jesus is the atonement. Thus our calling as Christian ministers is to point people to Jesus, inviting them to live into the union that they have with God in Christ. Root comments:
When we see the incarnation as the revealing of Jesus' person--the one who is both fully in union with God and fully in union with us--we see that what he does (soteriology) unites his person with our own, overcoming all that separates us from sharing in God's and each other's lives. This person, this Jesus, saves us (soteriology) by giving us his person (Christology) so that we might have union with God. God in Jesus shares in our lives as we in Jesus share in God's own (p149).
Once again, we see the vital importance of the historic, orthodox doctrine of the hypostatic union (what T.F. Torrance refers to as the "hypostatic at-onement"), for it is in this stunning, enduring miracle that salvation "resides." In short, salvation is not merely what Jesus does, it is what Jesus is. And we, as pastors, are quite unable to "get people into Jesus"--he alone does that; indeed, he alone did that, in his own person; once, for all, forever.

Thus our calling as pastors (the same calling held by all Christians), is to help people to see Jesus, who is their salvation; and having seen, to participate, by faith, in the union that is theirs with God in Christ (this is what Jesus referred to in Mat 28:19 as "make disciples"). It is in trusting Jesus that we are his true followers (disciples)--a relationship in which we experience him for who he truly is--our teacher, friend and brother who has united himself to us and also to our neighbors (who we are called as Jesus' followers to love). Root comments:
What more could salvation be than to be the persons who are in union with God through sharing of the divine and human natures of Jesus, who are given his Spirit so that we might participate in this union by sharing in the lives of our neighbors (p149). 
Thus we see that salvation truly is about relationship: relationship with Jesus who is in relationship with both God and all humanity. It is in that sense that we know Jesus to be the ultimate "place-sharer" (a term coined by Dietrich Bonhoeffer). Our salvation and our ministry calling is to live out that salvation by joining with Jesus by sharing deeply in both his divine nature and in his glorified human nature--a sharing that brings us, in Jesus, into union with both God and our neighbors.

This communal/relational/incarnational perspective on salvation and on the ministry that flows from it stands in stark contrast with the more individualistic perspectives that dominate so much of Christian teaching and practice in our day.

Next time we'll explore more about the vital topic of place-sharing, both as it pertains to Jesus and to the ministry that we share with him.

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