Here’s another thought from a few years back.
Have you ever thought about what we really mean when we use the word “saved” in the church context? It seems to me that we have completely forgotten what it is that the word actually means. When we use it we use it in a sentence that usually sounds something like, “Have you been saved?” or “I wonder if they are saved.”
What do you think of when you hear that?
I think most people will think of a person praying the sinner’s prayer or coming to an altar and accepting Jesus as their Savior. Let me show you something that hit me like a ton of bricks a few years ago.
In Acts 11 Peter is giving a report to church leaders in Jerusalem about the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on Gentiles that occurred at Cornelius’ house and is recorded in Acts chapter 10. When Peter relates the story to the leaders in Jerusalem he tells them about the message that an angel gave to Cornelius that prompted Cornelius to send for Peter. The message that the angel gave to Cornelius was…
Acts 11:13-14 … “Send to Joppa and bring Simon who is called Peter; he will declare to you a message by which you will be saved, you and all your household.”
My question is this… What was the angel referring to when he said that Peter had a message that would “save” Cornelius and all those in his household?
Do you suppose that he meant that they needed to pray the sinner’s prayer or come down to an altar call or take part in some sort of religious tradition? Was the angel saying that they needed to do the things that we think of when we say that a person needs to be “saved”?
Rather than any of these, let me paint a picture that came to my mind the first time I saw this. In this picture there is a sharp, extremely high, dangerous cliff edge. Leading up to that edge is a conveyor belt of sorts that is slowly creeping towards the edge of that cliff. On the conveyor are men, women, boys, and girls who are engaged in life. By the thousands they come to the edge and fall over to their absolute destruction. The problem is that from their vantage point they cannot see or perceive the danger until it is too late and they are falling. High above them there is a lookout. From his high position above them he not only sees them he can see the edge of the cliff and below. He is keenly aware of what is transpiring and feels acutely the loss that is constantly occurring.
This is the reality of the angel and those in Cornelius’ household.
The angel knows the reality that the members of Cornelius’ household cannot see. When he proclaims that they need to be “saved” it is “saved” in the sense that we use the word everywhere except church. You know “saved” as in a burning building, rushing floodwaters or a tyrants evil.
In fact that is what “saved” has always and will always mean in any context especially the church one. So great is their need and the need of the Gentile World of salvation that God performs this miracle to accomplish it. It is greatly necessary, passionately provided, and unmistakably urgent!
What happens when we redefine the word into a religious tradition? We lose all sense of urgency. If it takes a while for a person to pray a prayer or come down to an altar or have some sort of religious experience then what’s the hurry?
But if people are about to fall over a cliff someone needs to do something quickly.
We are supposed to be the ones who have the greater vantage point. Where is our sense of urgency?
The angel knew it, and we need to quickly remember it.