Salvation — God’s Form 1040

Monday Musings for May 31, 2021

Good morning, Musers,

Salvation is complex; its fullness is beyond our ken; scholars have written countless volumes trying to get a handle on it. But salvation is also simple and accessible. It can be summed up in two words: The Word, Jesus Christ, and God’s word, the Scripture.

“The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14, NIV)

“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness,”
(2 Timothy 3:16, NIV)

These two “words” are at the core of the gospel of Jesus Christ — the “good news” that has saved our souls. And, if you agree with most scholars that the Gospel of Mark is the earliest of the gospels, then that simple declaration of the good news starts the New Testament.

“The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.” (Mark 1:1, ESV)

I have always seen two salvations at work, though… not just one. One is the “technical” salvation (aka the ontological salvation). This is the one with all the rarified attributes that drive highbrow theological discussions. The other is the “functional” salvation. That’s the one we said “yes” to; that’s the one that saved us; that’s the one we present to the unsaved.

As Christians, we have to keep the ancillary aspects of salvation in view, however… much like we Americans (who organize our taxes around the various Forms 1040) have to keep the ancillary tax forms in view. Some of us know about the other forms, and some of us see Form 1040 as the entirety of federal tax. Our understanding tends to vary with how deeply we’ve integrated into life, and how it’s expressed in our needs, desires and experiences.

Salvation is like that. There are countless true facts about it — and its depth is unfathomable! But each of us will engage with it differently… according to how deeply we’ve traveled into our spiritual lives, and how that’s expressed in our needs, desires and experiences.

I don’t want you to get the wrong idea, though: some understandings about salvation are wrong on a basic level (on a Form 1040 level)… like saying that good works or sacraments are necessary to be saved. If you came to Christ on these terms, there’s a good chance you’re not saved.

However, if you have a problem understanding how human free will can coexist with God’s election — yet you find yourself veridically saved (— having a witness of the Holy Spirit, fruits of the Spirit, desiring God, his people, his service, etc.) — who even cares about ancillary theological issues! Just thank God for his presence, and do the work he put in front of you.

We’re not off the hook, though… about “knowing” things. We all should be growing in the knowledge of Jesus Christ (2 Peter 3:18) — and studying Systematic Theology should be part of that. But that’s a secondary discipline, and we should put first things first: Get saved!

So, let me ask you, do you understand salvation functionally? That is, are you saved? … or are you just basking in the Christian culture? If the latter is true, you can wind up in hell. The Christian culture saves no one! Make sure you understand the stakes and your place in the kingdom of God. Click here and here to read two articles that will teach you more about salvation.


(Click here to read the article referenced above. For comments, or to join the Monday Musings mailing list, contact us at To submit a question about God, the Bible or the Christian culture, click here.)