Some Fundamental Features of Salvation in the NT (1)

Advent is the season of preparation for our salvation. With that in mind, I begin today a short series on salvation in the New Testament. The first two posts will be seven theses that serve as prolegomena to a series of  propositions on the actual substance of  salvation in the New Testament. These theses will be more full developed in my forthcoming article on salvation in volume 5 of the New Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible.

   1. Salvation in the NT is thoroughly Christocentric. The NT knows of salvation only in and through Jesus Christ. The Johannine statement  “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6) is not an exceptional and narrow perspective within the NT. Rather, it encapsulates the entire NT’s view of salvation.
   2. Because NT salvation is Christocentric, it is constituted by the narrative of Christ from incarnation and ministry to death and resurrection to parousia. Each part of this narrative has a function in salvation, and different NT texts focus on different parts of the story. But the NT’s most distinctive internal dynamic of salvation is that of death and resurrection, both Christ’s and ours.
   3. At the same time, salvation in the NT is thoroughly theocentric. For the NT writers it is the God of Israel, the one true God, who saves in and through Jesus Christ.
   4. NT soteriology is therefore biblical, meaning that the NT writers see salvation in Jesus Christ as a continuation of God’s activity in and for Israel as recounted in the Scriptures as a whole and especially as promised in the prophets. Throughout the NT, salvation is depicted both explicitly and implicitly as new creation, new humanity, new exodus, new covenant, and the like. This newness suggests both continuity and discontinuity with God’s past dealings with Israel.
   5. NT soteriology is, therefore, a narrative soteriology. Not only is it constituted by the story of Christ, but the story of Christ is part of a larger narrative from creation to Israel to Christ to church to new creation.

(Theses six and seven will follow.)

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