I have a really good friend who asks some great questions from time to time.
I thought his latest question would make a solid basis for one of our talks…
The question has to do with when the original disciples of Jesus were saved. Were they “saved” when Jesus selected them to follow Him? Or did they become “saved” at some later point (after Jesus’ death and resurrection)?
Obviously, we are talking about two separate things. In the New Testament, salvation and discipleship are connected together… but they are also different – with different points of emphasis.
Essentially, salvation is what God has done for us through Jesus. It is HIS gift to us – through the work of Christ. It is freely given… and freely received.
Discipleship is what WE do for God… our gift to Him, because of what He has done for us. It is our proper response to the grace that God poured out to us in salvation. Jesus gave His life for us… we choose to give our lives to Him. Completely.
Jesus did not command the disciples to “Go into the world and get people saved.” He commanded them to “go and make disciples.” The goal in mind was (and is) always discipleship (wholly surrendered hearts)… not just salvation.
A proper understanding of salvation should lead us to the understanding that we now belong to God. What He gives to us can only be properly received by those who grasp that we owe everything to Him. We might just as well say that any “salvation” that does not lead us to a complete surrender to God means that we just didn’t understand what salvation means – what it cost God… and it’s cost to us, in return.
Though God wants us to spend eternity with Him… that is not the goal of salvation. The goal is that we would willingly surrender ourselves to His purposes here on this earth – that God would be able to work in, and through, people HERE… before we even get to there.
God can only work through people here who have surrendered to Him here (disciples!). This means that we abandon our hopes and dreams to take up the hopes and dreams of the Most High. The Bible tells us that these hopes and dreams have been in God’s Mind before the “foundations of the earth.” (Ephesians 1:4-5) Before we were ever born… God had in Mind what He wanted to do through us – to His glory.
All He seeks from us is that complete surrender that discipleship requires. This is where salvation should lead us. God’s complete sacrifice… demands our own.
Until we are completely surrendered, we just cannot walk in the fullness of why we were created – because our eternal destiny is dependent upon our surrender to the ways and will of God.
As we notice… Jesus’ disciples didn’t really “get it” until after they were saved – which came, as I understand it, after Jesus’ death and resurrection (see John 20:22). But after their salvation (and receiving the Holy Spirit) all the lessons they learned in walking with Christ came to fruition. They understood, and began to implement, what the Master had imparted to them. Their discipleship became empowered!
As for us, God’s gift of salvation calls us to a deeper life – a life where God lives in, and works through, those whose hearts are completely surrendered to Him.