Salvation: re-creation not transaction

Sadly, salvation is often viewed as a mere transaction by which we exchange our repentance and faith for God's gift of salvation. Though bearing some truth, this truncated view of salvation is quite incomplete and thus full of potential for error. 

Rather than a transaction, Scripture presents salvation as re-creation

In Jesus, who is fully God and fully human (and in his humanity the representative and substitute for all humanity), ALL humanity is re-created—reconciled, redeemed, justified and saved because Jesus has included ALL humanity in who he is and what he has done through his incarnation, life, death, resurrection and ascension. 

Jesus did all this FOR us and TO us by doing it WITH us and IN us (as one of us). Jesus is the One for the many—the many in the One.  Thus, we understand from Scripture that…
  • When Jesus died, all humanity died with him
  • When Jesus rose, all humanity rose to new life with him
  • When Jesus ascended, all humanity ascended and is seated with him at the Father’s side
Our repentance and faith do not bring about this re-creation of all humanity in Jesus, but they are essential, for they are the Spirit-enabled means by which we embrace Jesus' repentance and faith for us, and thus participate in Jesus' life, which, itself, is our salvation. 

Salvation is thus understood as a dynamic, on-going relationship with the triune God, with and in the person of the God-man Jesus. It is not a mere book-keeping-like transaction. 

Consider the following statements from Holy Scripture:
  • 2Corinthians 5:14-16:  “For Christ's love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.” 
  • Romans 5:12-19: “Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned...But the gift is not like the trespass.   For if the many died [how many died? – all, see v.12] by the trespass of the one man, how much more did God's grace and the gift that came by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, overflow to the many! [How many? – again all, see v.12]...For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God's abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ.  [Because God has already provided Christ’s sacrifice for all (v. 15) – it remains only for individuals to accept it (v.17) and thus to personally experience it—but this experience does not cause it to happen.]…Consequently, just as the result of one trespass was condemnation for all men, so also the result of one act of righteousness was justification that brings life for all men. For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners [How many? – all, see vv.12 and 18] so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous” [i.e. justified (v.18); again, God has already provided the gift of righteousness through Christ’s sacrifice for all – it remains only for individuals to accept and thus to experience and enjoy the gift].
  • Colossians 1:15-17: “He [Jesus] is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.” [This is an astounding statement about the nature of Jesus— because he is both Creator and Sustainer of the entire cosmos (all humanity included), when he dies, all creation (all humans included) “go down” with him— “therefore all died” (2Cor 5:14). And when he rose, we all rose; and when he ascended, we all ascended.  Jesus includes everyone (“all”) in his incarnation, life, death, burial, resurrection and ascension].
  • Romans 6:10: “The death he [Jesus] died, he died to sin once for all.”  [Note: it is not “will die” when they turn to him to “receive Jesus” but “once” (past tense) and not for some, but “for all”].
  • Romans 8:1: “There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” [It is not our personal belief that places us “in Christ”—Jesus did that to all humanity long ago, and as a result is “not counting men’s sins against them” (2Cor. 5:19) and there is “now no condemnation” (i.e. God has forgiven humanity). This reconciliation—this forgiveness—becomes “realized” for each person through personal repentance and belief].
  • Ephesians 2:4-10:  “But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.  For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”
  • 1Peter 1:18-20: “For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you… but with the precious blood of Christ…He [Jesus] was chosen [to save humanity] before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake.”