Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Salvation, is it a Provision or a Gift?

Forth Quarter 2012 Adult Sabbath School Lessons
Salvation: The Only Solution
For the week of Oct. 27, 2012
Salvation, is it a Provision or a Gift?

To give is to freely transfer the possession of something, whether tangible or intangible, to another or others. A gift is the material expression of giving, it is personal.  On the other hand, a provision is something that is set aside for one’s use. It is the act of providing, equipping, or supplying.  It is not really giving in the same sense that gift-giving is personal; providing, for the most part, is impersonal.  For an example of provision as impersonal giving, let’s say you work in a facility where lab equipment is required, and is furnished by your employer. Each employee has access to these supplies, and when a particular item is needed, it is merely retrieved from the storage unit.  Naturally these supplies are not really the employees’ property, but are provided to accomplish specific tasks. 

ID cards are a typical example of this. Many companies give them to their employees and expect them to wear the ID consistently while in the building. Although each employee’s identifying information is placed on the card, such as his or her name, photo, and signature, the card is not really the employee’s personal property.  It was given to identify them as persons who are entitled to occupy that building.  Thus when you retire, resign, or are fired, you are required to return the ID card. 

While most people do not think provisions are earned, they do think gifts are earned or deserved and view them as the result of equal exchanges.  For instance, John thinks, “I did a great job on that project, therefore I deserve recognition.” Most often a bonus is that recognition. Bonuses often come during holiday seasons, and we associate holidays with receiving and exchanging gifts.  Unlike bonuses, paychecks are usually earned (cf. Luke 10:7), and are not considered a gift, rather an exchange for an employee’s time and completion of tasks. 

Unfortunately, most of what we call gift-giving is done with the expectation of receiving something in return.  Donations, for instance, are seen as gifts, but in reality are not.  Donors usually give with the expectation that the recipient will accomplish a particular goal or purpose, and expect a report on the use made of the donated money.  Frequently the donors expect or anticipate public recognition; therefore donations are not truly gifts. 

There’s an emotional aspect that has not been touched on which often distinguishes a provision from a gift. When a provision has been made to supply needed goods or services, and those provisions are either ignored or not utilized, the emotional response of the provider is usually less intense than when a gift has been personally given but is rejected.  For example, when grocery items have been purchased for the family but  are not used, it is highly unlikely the family members are rejecting the items or the giver; more commonly, the family simply has a taste for something else.   In contrast, cologne is typically purchased as a gift, not as a “provision.”  If the recipient chooses not to use the gift, or worse, rejects it, the giver will most likely feel insulted.

Turning to a spiritual perspective now, has salvation been given, or provided?  Our quarterly speaks of salvation as a provision.  The implication is that salvation is there, and you use it if and when you need it.  You are the arbiter of your need, and God is not insulted or hurt by your choosing to partake of salvation when and where you want to.  Brothers and sisters, yes, God has provided all good things for our individual and collective needs, and even some of our wants. However, God wants us to grow up, to see that it is out of love that He has gifted us from the foundation of the world. Our reception of His gifts is by His power (grace), through the doorway of faith. In reality, the best gift of all is the gift of His Son.

There are several scriptural examples indicating what God has given to us as gifts. Foremost is the gift of eternal life, as found in John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” (Author’s emphasis)  This text tells us that God gave His Son, He did not simply provide Him.  And He did so because He loved the world’s inhabitants.  According to the apostle Paul, He withheld nothing. He gave His only begotten Son – and Himself, for He was in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself (2 Corinthians 5:19).  Almost everything written on the subject of love indicates that at the heart of love is the spirit of giving.  Godgave.

At sin’s inception, death was our sentence – the second death.  All we had was death.  As human beings we prefer to think that all the good things we have received are either the result of our earnings, or what we deserve.  However, had not Christ been the lamb slain from the foundation of the world we would receive nothing but death.

According to Romans 6:23, “the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” Here, the wages of sin (that which is earned) is contrasted with God’s gift (that which we did not earn, nor do we deserve), eternal life.

Oh, what marvelous love! “The man of sorrows did not spurn [us], but poured out His inexhaustible, redeeming love that [our] heart[s] might be made clean” (Ellen G. White, Review and Herald, October 16, 1888). What an amazing plan of salvation!  Who would have thought that a lamb could rescue the souls of men?  For this we adore Him, and proclaim Him to all sinners who will one day cry, “Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29).

God, through His son’s personal message of love, gave salvation to us.  What a perfect gift to be had! By the grace of God, let’s joyfully receive it with grateful hearts.
-Raul Diaz