During this time of year, we celebrate the birth of Jesus, the Messiah of Israel. Christian tradition believes that this singular birth is God Incarnate, the one who came to deliver all both Jews and Gentiles from the clutches of evil unto the hand of God, from whence they cannot depart. But, this is where we start to differ.
And by “we,” I mean Christians of orthodox doctrines (please note how I phrased this).
The Trinity is an orthodox doctrine. The Incarnation is an orthodox doctrine. The Atonement is an orthodox doctrine. Strains of understanding God’s foreknowledge and covenantalism is sectarian.
I am an Arminian, with a strong lean to an absolute sovereignty of God. I would attempt to explain that, but this is not a post on that.
Rather, I want to ask you a question. What if Jesus didn’t come to be your savior?
There is no real concept of “individual savior” in the New Testament. Rather, Christ delivered the Church, a corporate body of believers.
But in Acts 2.47, the Church exists before the individual who is “being saved.” The Church exists as the destination of the person who has in some way come to Christ. This fits theologically with Matthew 16 when Christ establishes the Church (we can get into the Greek later).
But, then there is the verse in the Lukan natal announcement:
“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” Luke 2:14 ESV
Or, “…peace on earth to men of God’s good will.” In other words, God’s blessing is not to sum total of humanity, but to a select few.
I am not one given to “supersessionism,” usually defined as a discontinuity between the Church and Israel. Rather, the Elect, Israel, was renewed and expanded to include Gentiles. The (Re)New(ed) Covenant had new features, but was fundamentally the same. It was a treaty of sorts between God and His people, with expectations of both parties to one another, as well as to those outside the new Kingdom. Again, not the post for that.
So, the question is… what if Jesus did not come to be your savior?
Two ways to digest this. One, Jesus came to establish the Church as the covenanting symbol (not the New Israel, but the All Israel). This corporate election stands apart from individual choices so that the Church exists in all times and places regardless of membership. The Church, just as Israel was, is the elect. Or, we can see this as an individual election, so that some are elected into God’s good will while others are condemned by virtue of non-election.
If number one is the correct option, then Jesus is the savior of His body, the Church. Meaning, we must belong to that Church (as it says in Acts among other places). Belonging, by the way, does not mean membership, but as we are reminded through the Donatist controversy, it requires something of us. Wesley knew this. Membership meant nothing to Wesley, but rather it is the acts of sanctification — growing in holiness — defining “belonging.” This is why he had no issue removing people out of the societies. St. Paul had no issue removing people from his groups. Belonging is not membership.
What do you think? And, if you disagree with me, be prepared to give your answer in well-sourced theological citations drawn from the entire corpus of Church History, as approved by the Holy Spirit — usually before 20 August 1884.