Reading: Acts 13:42-42
I’m afraid this morning’s reflection may resemble a very badly constructed quiz show. I am going to offer up quite a few questions and make some comments around them but I am not going to offer any answers.
That is going to be your job. Only you can arrive at the answers that speak into your life’s experience.
Hopefully as they say in some of those quiz shows. It will all become clear as we go along. Before we get to that let me fill in some of the blanks that have happened since our reading last week. The persecution has continued in Antioch James the brother of John, both disciples of Jesus, who we met a few times journeying through the Gospel of Mark at the beginning of this year. James has been put to death by the sword.
King Herod who was the grandson of the king Herod who reigned at the time of Jesus seen that his actions pleased the people so he intended the same fate for Peter but Passover was underway. Peter’s execution had to be delayed but he was imprisoned. If you want to get more detail surrounding this can I invite you to read the previous chapter, chapter twelve, and there you can read of Peter’s miraculous escape from prison.
The mission journey continues as Barnabas and Saul are landed in Cyprus and from there they set sail again finally landing at today’s destination, Pisidian Antioch. Antioch from where they set off is in Syria this new place is in southern Turkey. Before they set off and during their time in Cyprus the connection, Saul known as Paul, was always made. Notice the subtle difference from here on Saul is simply referred to as Paul. As was the case elsewhere they preached in the synagogue.
We join them today as they are leaving but even before they have left the invitation is extended for them to return and speak more about Jesus and this new faith. It is at this next Sabbath we join the story. Their message is a very powerful one and the subject matter has long been a hot topic for theologians over the generations. The whole matter of salvation and what it means. No matter what those who held power in the synagogue thought or did Barnabas and Paul were determined to preach to the gentiles the good news of salvation in Christ and they quote from the great prophet Isaiah in support of their work. The word spread as people told their neighbours the good news of salvation. This new found faith could not be hidden away.
This leads me into the quiz or more accurately the question show. What does salvation mean? Who decides all of this? Who is salvation for? There are many other words that fit within the inclusive word salvation. Saved, justified, redeemed, sanctified, righteous, glorified. We see that salvation is in itself a journey. It relates to the past tense when we have been saved, justified, redeemed we have in essence been given a new nature. It relates to the present tense as we are being saved. We are being made holy as the Holy Spirit sanctifies. It relates to the future tense when will be saved and our bodies will be glorified. What does salvation mean? It means so much more than even the most eloquent words we have can explain.
Who decides all of this? This is a question that is answered very differently by people. There are those who would say it is God alone who chooses who will be saved. Humanity does not have a say because we are trapped in our sinful nature. God calls his chosen people and when called they cannot refuse. In this understanding according to God’s will not everyone will receive salvation. Others would say we do have a part in the process if and when we believe and repent. This understanding has God calling us first but we still can resist that calling and by doing so resisting salvation itself. In this understanding God calls us from our sinful ways and frees us that we would have free choice to choose God or not.
The final thought would be that God chooses us for salvation. If we do not resist, then we are saved if we do resist we are not. God will not force us either way but such is the depth of our sinful nature we would never choose God. This understanding leads us to we cannot choose salvation but after God has called us we are free to reject his call thus choosing damnation. Who decides all of this, three possible outcomes. We have no choice in salvation or damnation. We have a choice in both. We cannot choose salvation ourselves but we can choose damnation if we resist God’s call. I have deliberately left the last question until now. Who is salvation for? The conclusions of what has gone before us this morning may well be needed before this question can even begin to be unpicked therefore, I leave it with you and your own thoughts to go about working it out between God and yourself. I hope this has not been a badly constructed quiz show but rather a meaningful place for each of us to journey forward with Christ that may lead us to a deeper level in our relationship with our Saviour, the one who offers Salvation. These questions are not easy for some people, and some might say not straightforward. Others might feel as though, for them, they have it all sorted out in their head. Wherever each of us are on that journey we need that grace of God to allow others the space and the time to consider these meaningful things concerning our faith. May God lead us in all our discernment of his will.