Title Post: Rethinking Salvation
I want to close this study with three observations on the value of the Feast of Pentecost for the church—for you and me—today.
1. We must rethink the whole paradigm of salvation
The most offensive characterization, the grossest misrepresentation of the God of Israel—and Israel itself—in all of Christian theology throughout the centuries, has been the persistent belief that Israel was saved by works and the church is saved by grace. Said another way, Israel earned salvation by keeping the Law while we receive it by grace alone. Baloney!
Not only does this misrepresent Israel, but it also maligns the God of Israel.
It was his grace that saved Israel out of Egypt. It is quite telling that most Christians don’t understand something quite foundational, biblically speaking. The Exodus story is a wonderful paradigm of what salvation is all about! It is the LORD who redeems by the blood of the Passover lamb. Israel was saved because they were under the gracious provision of the lamb’s blood. Understand this. There was nothing Israel did to merit salvation; it was a gift from a giving God.
Think about it, God did not send Moses to Israel like a traveling salesman with the Ten Commandments in his briefcase. “Here Israel,” he says, “If you buy these commandments, God will redeem you and save you.” No, God saved Israel for no reason other than that he loved her. The LORD so loved Israel that he sent the Redeemer. After her rescue, he says, “Here is the instruction manual for living in the shalom of my care.”
God saves Israel by the blood of the lamb, thereby forging a holy nation.
He wanted to take Israel as a bride, so he brings her to a place of revelation and responsibility at Sinai. The rabbis saw this whole Exodus 24 passage as a marriage metaphor, from which they drew ceremonial practices for Jewish weddings.
God comes like a bridegroom to Mt. Sinai; the bridegrooms of old would come preceded by fire.
His bride has washed; she has purified and consecrated herself, waiting for her bridegroom to come.
He comes, and then his agent Moses reads the marriage contract, the ketubah.
Notice what happens. After Moses builds an altar he, took half of the blood and put it in basins, and half of the blood he threw against the altar. Then he took the Book of the Covenant and read it in the hearing of the people. And they said, “All that the LORD has spoken we will do, and we will be obedient.” And Moses took the blood and threw it on the people and said, “Behold the blood of the covenant that the LORD has made with you in accordance with all these words.” - Exodus 24:6-8
Moses reads the covenant to the people, just like an agent reads the marriage contract to the potential bride. If the bride wishes to enter into the marriage contract, she says, “I do.” What does Israel say after Moses reads the agreement? They respond, “We will.” In effect, the bride said “I do” to the love of God. My friends, we are witnessing God’s love for Israel.
Sinai was not just some stopover on the journey to the promised land.
It wasn’t a rest stop along the way; in a real sense, it is the destination of the Exodus. It was the place of God’s revelation and instruction.
The LORD said to Moses, “Come up to me on the mountain and wait there, that I may give you the tablets of stone, with the law and the commandment, which I have written for their instruction.” - Exodus 24:12
The word instruction here is yarah. Yarah is the source of the word torah (law in this verse). Torah is teaching. God saves Israel, joins himself to her as a bridegroom to a bride, and then gives her instructions on how to live in the way of peace.
What is missing here? There is no heinous, false dichotomy between grace and law as later Christian theology would posit. Now let’s be clear, grace without law is license, and law without grace is legalism—both are necessary. There is God’s loving initiative and your faithful, obedient response. We can say it this way, keeping Torah for Israel was not bondage, it was a sign of the end of bondage, of liberation from slavery in Egypt.
Grace precedes and proceeds into the giving of the Torah. The Law is a pattern of life, for life.
This paradigm is not new; it goes back to Genesis. Has it ever occurred to you there was law in the garden of Eden? God created by his grace, then he gave some guidelines, “You may not eat of this tree, it is forbidden. You may eat of this tree, it is permitted.” That was law, commandment, instruction.
The paradigm is always the same, God creates and recreates by his gracious, loving volition. And then he gives instruction. If you violate his words, you separate yourself from him, from each other, from the fullness of shalom, just as it happened to Adam and Eve.
The law was given to preserve paradise and to prosper Adam and Eve because obedience leads to life.
In Judaism, the spindles upon which the Torah scroll is wrapped, which you lay hold of when you lift up the Word of God, are called trees of life. God’s Word is a tree of life. I urge you to eat the scroll, taste and see if it isn’t good, if it doesn’t bring healing, peace, salvation, and restoration to your life. Don’t seek after your ways of iniquity, eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil—deciding for yourself what is good and evil.
In rethinking salvation, we must also move to the conviction that it is purposeful beyond our own little individual egoistic reasons. God saves us for his purposes as well as for our eternal rewards. His initiative should elicit our faithfulness. It is time that we take seriously the summons included with our salvation, our call to be a royal priesthood, to be built into a holy tabernacle suitable for God’s Spirit to dwell.
How will you respond to the gift of your salvation?
Want to go deeper? Click here to explore audio seminars by Dwight A. Pryor.
Interested in taking one of our dynamic online courses? Click here.
This study is from a professionally produced transcription of the audio recording. It was edited for readability by the team at JC Studies.
Dwight A. Pryor (1945-2011) was a gifted Bible teacher of exceptional clarity and depth who earned the friendship and admiration of both Christian and Jewish scholars—in the United States and Israel—as well as the respect and appreciation of followers of Jesus around the world. His expertise in the language, literature, and culture of Israel during the life and time of Jesus and the early church yield insights that nourish every area of faith and practice.
Dwight founded JC Studies in 1984 to edify the people of God. Click here to explore over fifty of his audio and video seminars.