Working Out Our Salvation with Fear and Trembling

April 15, 2014 at 11:58 AM

translation1I’ve been enjoying a set of books written by John Klein and Adam Spears (with Michael Christopher). It’s a series of three books called “Lost in Translation” and comes in three separate volumes.

Lately, I have been frustrated with the way the English translations of the Bible from the Greek often mask original meanings, making them very difficult at times to comprehend. The truth appears to be that most of what we call the New Testament was originally written in Hebrew, then translated to Greek, then translated to English. I do realize there is some disagreement there, but for me, I am becoming satisfied that it is because of this process, at least some of the teachings of Jesus and others have become unduly clouded.

One of the things that the authors discuss is the difference between the old “testament” and the new. The use of the word testament should actually be thrown out because the New Testament does not replace the Old. More accurately, we might call the New Testament the Revised Covenant.

The authors spend a good amount of time discussing aspects of what constitutes a covenant. Because they are Jewish and Christian, they are able to pull from Hebraic tradition and culture to more than adequately explain this area. Moreover, they also go into quite a bit of detail regarding the Hebrew betrothal process. Once I began to understand these issues, parts of His Word immediately opened up to me!

Let me explain and let’s start with the concept of covenants. According to the authors, there are a total of seven types of covenants. Let’s look at four of them.

  1. Blood Covenant
  2. Salt Covenant
  3. Sandal Covenant
  4. Marriage Covenant

The first one, the blood covenant, is important because this is where everyone starts. Through this covenant, people enter into relationship with God as a servant. We promise to obey Him and we renew this covenant with Him on a daily basis as Paul outlines in 1 Corinthians 15:31. As Christians, we choose to die daily to our self in exchange for His will for our lives. In that way, we daily offer ourselves as servants to the Most High.

The second covenant is in addition to the first one. The second covenant does not obliterate the first. It is simply added to the existing covenant and it is fascinating. It is called the Salt Covenant because this is where people enter into a friendship with one another. This was seen with Abraham when he welcomed the Lord in Genesis 18:1-15. Abraham literally broke bread with the Lord. This involves each person pouring salt (from a pouch they carry) into a bowl and dipping bread in that bowl and eating it. Once they are done, the mixed salt is divided up and each individual puts some of the mixed salt back into each of their pouches.

Since it would be impossible to separate the grains salt once mixed so that each person has his original salt back, this covenant is forever. For Abraham, he was after this called a “friend of God,” but he also continued to be God’s servant.

The third covenant is the Sandal Covenant (also called the Inheritance Covenant) and you and I have both read about this in Scripture, though it is likely that we did not fully understand it. In the Hebrew Bible (OT), sandals were actually used to show land boundaries. These were sometimes partially covered with rocks to weigh them down, keeping them in place.

The authors tell us that “Over time, sandals themselves came to represent the inheritance concept. Thus the sandal covenant is a picture of the relationship of sons and daughters with their parents.” [1] Only family members generally received an inheritance or an individual who was adopted into the family.

We see this at work in the book of Ruth with Boaz when the closest relative chose not to purchase Ruth’s family and her field or take Ruth as his wife. This then went to Boaz and the first individual took off his sandal and gave it to Boaz.

When Moses stood before God, God told Moses to take off his sandals. God was going to give him a new inheritance of holiness. This is most important during the Last Supper (John 13) when the Lord had the disciples remove their sandals and He washed their feet. Peter initially objected and what was Jesus’ response? Essentially, He told Peter that if Peter did not allow Him to wash his feet, Peter would miss out on this portion of inheritance. I wonder how often we look at the feet-washing situation like that?

One of the important points the authors make is that God’s covenants are often progressive. As we move through them, we continue to be His servant, but we move into deeper relationship with Him. Some Christians never move beyond servant hood. This process is really our sanctification, not our justification. Our justification occurs the moment we receive Jesus, but our sanctification is something that we “work out” (cf. Philippians 2:12) our salvation with “fear and trembling.” We are not earning our salvation. We are moving through the various covenants with God in order to know Him on a much deeper level.

The final phase of the four covenants it the Marriage Covenant. That, in and of itself, is a process as well. We will talk about that next time.


[1] John Klein and Adam Spears, Lost in Translation, Volume One (2007), p. 44

Entry filed under: Religious - Christian - Theology, salvation.

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