I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the words we use that are foundational to our faith. Words like faith, salvation, justification, new creation, Kingdom of God, discipleship, gospel, etc.. A few years back a festschrift for Richard Longenecker (Gospel in Paul) was done where his contributors explored the different way’s the word ‘gospel’ was used in Paul. I can remember reading a few of them and thinking to myself, now that’s a different way of pondering the Christian faith. Typically we look for clear and concise definitions of doctrinal terms but these scholars were looking for nuance, looking for pastoral application, looking for contextualizations of the gospel in Paul’s different letters.
I’m all for clear, concise terms. I think the desire to bring together the varying biblical witnesses to doctrinal truth and form definitions is a very helpful endeavor to undertake. Nevertheless there is also great dividends to seeing how a term is used and applied in different contexts by a biblical author(s). I liken the difference to learning to appreciate mosaic art. From a distance the image the mosaic forms has clear distinct colors and shapes but when you get up closer you begin to be able to appreciate just how complex and beautiful the art actually is. Scripture is like a mosaic, you can draw broad theological pictures from its message but when you slow down and get up close you really begin to be able to appreciate just how great an artist God and his writers were.
Joel Green helps us do this with the term ‘salvation’ in Luke’s Gospel. He says;
“Luke uses the language of salvation more than any other New Testament writer, but employs that language in co-texts whose effect is to give salvation broad meaning. Salvation is, preeminently, status reversal, and this includes not only the raising up of ‘lowly’ persons whom Jesus encounters in the Gospel, but also the people of Israel as a people, promised liberation from the oppressive hand of Rome. Salvation is also the coming of the kingdom of God, then, the coming of God’s reign of justice, to deconstruct the worldly systems and values at odds with the purpose of God. Salvation also entails membership in the new community God is drawing together around Jesus, a community into which all – especially the previously excluded for reasons of sin, and its corollary, despised status – are invited to participate in the blessings of the kingdom as well as to share in its service.” Joel B. Green, The Theology of the Gospel of Luke, pg. 94
What do you think of Green’s summary of the nature of salvation in Luke’s Gospel? Where you helped by the nuance he expressed in the way he defined the term?