September 21, 2011 Posted by Aaron Snell
Frank Turk over at Pyromaniacs delayed his weekly-Wednesday open letter one day, and in it’s place put up an older post that compared two books published in 2008. One of those books is by Indiana megachurch pastor Tim Stevens, and in an addendum Frank notes that “Tim Stevens now wants to remove the word ‘saved’ from the Christian vocabulary when we are speaking to lost people.” He links to this article from the Christian Post.
There’s a lot that could be said in response to Stevens’ statements, but I wanted to leave most of that aside and comment on just one point. Stevens says that he is annoyed by the use of the word “saved” among Christians, because it is an “insider term” that doesn’t mean anything to anyone outside the church, and ostracizes the Christian from the culture. It’s a word that just doesn’t make sense to, and alienates, non-Christians (not to mention, in his view, that it is an incomplete term to describe a Christ-follower – but leave that aside for now) and hence should be substituted with more acceptable and understandable phrases.
But here’s the question: is “saved” really just a Christian in-house term? Is it just insider lingo that has no real communicative value for non-Christian outsiders? The Apostle Peter seemed to think differently:
37 Now when they heard this, they were pierced to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brethren, what shall we do?” 38 Peter said to them, “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God will call to Himself.” 40 And with many other words he solemnly testified and kept on exhorting them, saying, “Be saved from this perverse generation!” (Acts 2:37-40, emphasis added)
“Saved” is explicitly used in Scripture to communicate the gospel message. We abandon it, I think, to our peril. Moreover, the only way this term would be confusing or meaningless to a non-Christian is if they have never actually been presented with a biblical gospel message of sin, repentance and faith in Christ.
Not only this, Scripture uses the term to refer to individual Christians in exactly the way Stevens is objecting to:
And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved. (Acts 2:47)
Stevens talks about people who are searching, who “feel a need for God,” but are made uncomfortable when they come to church and just don’t get it, in large part due to the language used (“saved” being the example given here, along with “born-again”). However, if anyone was a so-called “seeker” it was Cornelius:
13 And he reported to us how he had seen the angel standing in his house, and saying, ‘Send to Joppa and have Simon, who is also called Peter, brought here; 14 and he will speak words to you by which you will be saved, you and all your household.’ (Acts 11:13-14)
And there’s one more:
30 and after he brought them out, he said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” 31 They said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” (Acts 16:30-31)
The jailer got it. And I think non-Christians will too, if we actually give them the gospel.