Salvation in Jesus Christ - The Bible's Central Message
The teaching about Jesus Christ and the salvation that God in His love has prepared in Christ is the central message of the Bible. Man is saved alone by grace, through faith, on the merits of Christ. Only faith in Christ justifies man and makes him acceptable to God (John 20:31; Rom. 5:1; Eph. 2:8).-(LLC Position Statement, Section 1, Item 4)
What Is the Central Message in the Bible?
Jesus Christ and the salvation that is in Him is the main message in the Bible. This essential truth has been lost to many in the course of time. Already in the time of Jesus, the Pharisees looked for justification for their own righteousness in the words of the Scriptures. In Luther's time the Catholic Church viewed the Bible in the light of her doctrine of salvation through faith and good works. Today, the danger of losing sight of the Bible's message lies in man's rational approach. On one hand, some radical scholars have rejected the divine dimension of the Bible and approach it as the product of human design. On the other hand, some approach the Bible from the opposite end of the spectrum, ignoring the historical perspective and using a strictly literal interpretation. Both methods obscure the perspective of salvation history.
Christ Is the Center of Salvation History
Jesus advised the Pharisees, who could not see that the promise of salvation in the coming Messiah was the main message in the Old Testament: “Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me” (John 5:39). When we look at Scripture with this in mind, we use the so-called salvation historical view. It means that God's plan to save mankind is the common thread in the Bible. God promised the Messiah through the Old Testament Law and Prophets, and fulfilled His plan by having Him become true man, born of the Virgin Mary, having Him suffer and die under Pontius Pilate, raising Him on the third day, and having Him ascend to heaven, from where on the last day He shall come to judge the world (see Luke 24:27; Luke 24:44; John 1:45; John 5:46; Acts 10:43).
The Main Message of the Bible Revealed to Luther
During Luther's time the main message of the Bible was lost in the teachings of the Catholic Church, which taught that salvation was attained by a combination of faith and good works. After his conversion, Luther finally understood that a merciful God is to be found without one's own merits and that the central message of the Bible was salvation alone by grace, alone by faith, alone through the merits of Christ. We agree with Luther's telling statement: “Christ is the Lord and the King of the Bible” (See John 6:35; John 8:12; John 10:9; John 10:11; John 11:25; John 14:6; John 15:5).
God's Revelation Goes beyond Our Human Mind
Bible researchers look for answers to questions such as: how the books of the Bible have come about, what the original words meant to the listeners in Jesus' time, and in what historical circumstances the Scriptures were written. Information produced by such research can be beneficial to us since it can open windows of understanding to the rich original message of the Bible. Some scholars, however, hold the human mind to be the highest source of truth and have thus placed reason above faith. They question the fundamental teachings of the Bible, namely the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead and salvation through Him. These scholars deem these as beliefs bound to time. As suitable areas of focus for modern man they instead see love and social justice rather than the main message of redemption and salvation in Christ. Their approach has been like that of the tempter in Paradise: Has God really said so? (Gen. 3:1). In faith we see Jesus Christ as the main message of the Bible and thank God for salvation through Him (Ps. 8:4,5). (See also Acts 1:8; Acts 3:20; Acts 5:42; Acts 8:5; Acts 8:35; Acts 9:20; Acts 10:42; Acts 11:20; Acts 17:3; Acts 17:18; Acts 18:5; Acts 19:13.)
All Scripture Must Be Interpreted in the Light of Christ's Salvation Work
While the Bible includes ceremonial and dietary laws, which were given to the people of Israel in the Old Covenant, even these instructions must be looked at in the light of Christ Jesus and the Bible's main message being salvation in Him. Apostle Paul said: “Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth” (Rom. 10:4). He also said that “the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost” (Rom. 14:17). In God's kingdom we endeavor to listen to what the Spirit says in the congregations. The Spirit reveals the gospel message. As a believer of this message, a child of God also desires to listen to the instructions of love that come through the congregation.