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Our path to salvation

Discussion in 'Salvation (Soteriology)' started by HTacianas, Feb 19, 2020.

  1. HTacianas

    HTacianas Well-Known Member

    United States
    Eastern Orthodox
    This is from the website of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America:

    According to St. Paul, not only loving deeds but also the sacraments of Baptism (Rom 6:1-11) and the Eucharist (1 Cor 10:16-22; 11:23-32) are decisive to salvation. Read carefully Paul’s Letter to the Romans, chapters 1-6. Note how often in chapters 1-5 he speaks of faith, the importance of faith, and the blessings that come from faith. But when do all these blessings take place? What is the event at which salvation truly takes hold? Baptism! That’s the answer St. Paul gives in Romans, chapter 6. All of chapter 6 is about Baptism and life after Baptism. For Paul, it is in Baptism that the believer is united with Christ, dies to the power of sin, and receives new life in Christ (6:1-11). Baptized Christians ought to use their bodies no longer “as instruments of sin but as weapons of righteousness” (6:12-13). Life after Baptism, says Paul, includes the responsibility to live by the “standard of teaching” (typon didaches) which Christians have been taught (6:17). Otherwise, even for Christians, “the wages of sin is death” (6:23). Paul is clear-cut about the criterion of final judgment: “God will render to every person according to his works; to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, God will give eternal life; but for those who . . . obey wickedness, there will be wrath and fury” (Rom 2:6-8).

    Let us sum up the main points. The work of salvation belongs entirely to God. It is God through Christ and the Holy Spirit, who has the divine power to rescue us from the forces of sickness, evil, sin, death, and the devil. It is God through Christ and the Holy Spirit who alone provides justification, forgiveness, and new life to sinners who come to Him with faith. And God provides salvation as a most amazing and unceasing gift to all sincere seekers.

    From our side, the question is about receiving and using the gift of salvation. The gift is offered, but if we do not receive it, we don’t have it, and certainly cannot use it. God offers the gift. We can choose to accept it or reject it. As Orthodox Christians we do not believe in predestination. Jesus said: “Whoever wants to come after me, let him take up his cross and follow me” (Mark 8:34). The gift and the challenge to follow Jesus through a life of faith and works coincide.

    The reception of the gift of salvation is not a one-time event but a life-time process. St. Paul employs the verb “to save” (sozesthai) in the past tense (“we have been saved,” Rom 8:24; Eph 2:5); in the present tense (“we are being saved,” 1 Cor 1:18; 15:2), and in the future tense (“we will be saved,” Rom 5:10). He can think even of justification as a future event and part of the final judgment (Rom 2:13, 16). For Paul, Christians are involved in a lifetime covenant with God in which we work, planting and watering, but it is “only God who gives the growth” (1 Cor 3:7). We are “co-workers with God” (synergoi Theou, 1 Cor 3:9; 1 Thess 3:2). (Not “co-workers under God” as some translations would have it). The mystery of salvation is a duet, not a solo. It is a life-time engagement with God. It has ups and downs, twists and turns, with opportunities to grow in the love of God, knowing that we can turn to Him again and again and receive forgiveness and a new birth. When we come to Christ as sinners, we have no works to offer to Him, but only faith and repentance. But once we come to Him and receive the gift of salvation, we enter into a sacred covenant to honor Him with good works. We read in Ephesians: “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God . . . [We are] created in Christ Jesus for good works” (Eph 2:8-10).

    The teaching of the New Testament is that God’s grace, our free will, and our faith and good works, are intimately connected. The Holy Spirit energizes in us both faith and good works as we thirst for and seek God’s grace. Neither faith nor good works can be presented as merit before God, but only as return gifts in humility, love, and thanksgiving. Let us not forget as well the sober words of James: “Faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead . . . Faith is completed by works . . . A person is justified by works and not by faith alone” (James 2:17, 22, 24). By free will, faith, and earnest labors, we work together with the grace of God in the awesome gift and mystery of salvation. As St. Paul puts it: “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for God is at work in you, both to will and to work His good pleasure” (Phil 2:12-13). To God Almighty, together with the Son and the Holy Spirit, be praise and worship forever. Amen.

    How Are We Saved? - Theology - Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America
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