HOUSTON – “Baptists have been experts at telling the story of salvation for a long time … it’s what we do,” explained Duane Brooks, pastor of Tallowood Baptist Church in Houston.
But, Brooks said, Baptists often share an incomplete story.
“The nature of salvation is much richer and broader than the subject of conversion.”
Brooks shared his thoughts at a workshop held during the 2009 Annual Meeting of Texas Baptists in Houston. His conclusions stem from months of preparation for his upcoming book, entitled This Magnificent Salvation: What Salvation Means in a World Like This, scheduled to be released in early 2010 by Baptist Way Press.
Brooks suggested that often, Baptist describe salvation only in terms of the forgiveness received from God through Jesus Christ. While this is an important aspect of salvation, it is only one aspect.
“If we preach salvation mainly as forgiveness,” Brooks said, “we are only showing one color of the rainbow.”
Brooks went on to describe the entire spectrum of salvation: one’s realization of the need for a Savior, God’s provision for that Savior, and acceptance of the Savior through conversion. Beyond that, the person experiences regeneration into a new person, sanctification to become more like Christ, new community relationships through the Church, the charge to share their experience with others, the assurance of a final destiny with God, and the realization of the hope of eternal life.
Brooks spent more time on the subject of transformation or what happens after the person accepts salvation. In particular, Brooks provided four basic elements occur in this process: regeneration, justification, adoption, and reconciliation.
Regeneration, Brooks suggests, is described as a wind in the New Testament, especially in Jesus conversation with Nicodemus in the Gospel of John. While many in the Southwest and along the Gulf coast understand wind as a destructive force, Jesus uses this example as a life-giving force, the force that brings the dead to life. The individual experiencing salvation, then, experiences a wind of change that blows away the old and gives new life, just as God brought the dead bones to life in Ezekiel.
“Salvation is nothing less than life,” Brooks stated.
A second experience comes in the area of justification, the process whereby the individual is put in right standing with God. However, Brooks suggested that often Baptists see justification too narrowly.
“God not only counts us right,” Brooks said, pointing to the work of British theologian N. T. Wright, “but He also makes us right.”
Through justification, God begins to use those He is making “right” to make His world “right.” He creates “agents of transformation,” Brooks claimed, “to help make all of heaven break loose on earth.”
A third experience in the process of transformation is adoption.
“One of the greatest things that I get to do as a pastor is see couples go through the process of adoption,” Brooks stated. In this process, a child not born of blood becomes a part of the family out of love, providing the child with parents.
Brooks connected this experience with the salvation experience, as believers have a new spirit in them that cries out to God as “Abba, Father,” an endearing, loving term signifying a new relationship with God.
The final experience comes through reconciliation. Brooks reminded those present that the reconciliation process has nothing to do with God reconciling Himself to Christ, but rather God reconciling Himself to the world through Christ. This reconciliation provides a relationship with the father in the same way the Prodigal Son had a re-established relationship with his Father, complete with a new robe, a ring, and shoes on his feet.
“The richness of salvation is a great gift from God that the Scriptures share with us,” Brooks stated. “The more we learn of our salvation, the more we love our Savior.”
By Blake Killingsworth, Dallas Baptist University