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“For Your Salvation”

August 23, 2010

One of the phrases in the letters of St Paul that I have frequently read is the phrase, “for your salvation.” In the same context are the phrases, “for your sanctification” and, “for your edification.” I believe that the majority of these phrases are found in the letters to the Corinthian believers. But what does that phrase mean? Just to make sure that no one thinks I believe myself to have the answer, I will say that as I study Orthodoxy more and more, I believe I have an inkling as to what it might mean. I generally run this stuff by my Priest during our discussions, and if I am way off, he lets me know. When I am more or less in the ball park, he gives me the nod (so to speak). But to any that read this and find my comments to be way off, please let me know in the comments. Or even if I’m not WAY off, then let me know to what degree I am missing it. Or just leave any comment at all. (Sorry, my attempt at humor via blog)

Based on what I wrote in my last post, I think my understanding of the nature of salvation helps me to make sense of these words of St Paul.

Salvation, as I understood it before, involved being made alive by God based on the merits of Christ, and His atoning death on the cross, followed by the hope of the Resurrection. As I mentioned in my last post, being born-again puts us in a right standing with God, and we are “accounted” righteous. This means Christ’s righteousness is given to me, regardless of what I have done, because I believe in Him. It’s a personal transaction that is independent of others. With this as my understanding of salvation, St Paul’s words really make no sense. What I mean is this: if it’s about what Jesus did for me, then how can anyone else claim to have a part in that. Even the words edification and sanctification, in this context (as I once understood it) can only be that you are “encouraged” in your walk, as Jesus does the sanctifying and edifying.

The first time I heard Fr Patrick speak in a homily about his teaching, praying and administering the Holy Mysteries as being for our salvation, I was taken aback. How could this be? But then as I re-read the Scriptures, I came across these phrases over and over again. I thought to myself, there must be something to this, if he keeps saying it (he being St Paul).

As I have gradually begun to understand some of the Orthodox doctrines a bit more, I see that we have more than a transactional position in Christ. We have a living, breathing communion with Him that is not a solo mission, but is in fact a communion with all believers as well. His incarnation is the focal point of our communion with Him. His death and resurrection has broken the power that death and sin have over us, and makes us able to partake in that communion. Just as our participating in the sacraments is a mystical participation in and union with Christ, so it is with others. Just as Christ prayed in John chapter 17, we are one in Him, and in Him we are one with each other. I don’t know how it works, I just know that it’s true. As we participate in His life, we are participating in one another’s life.

Just as Cornelius’ belief and baptism, in the Book of Acts saved him, he also saved his “whole household”. This is especially true for us parents, as we are leaders of “the domestic church” e.i. our children. If St Paul as a spiritual father to those he started Churches among, were effected by the things he taught, prayed and did, how much more are our physical children effected? We have some kind of effect on one another. And this is the result of a life of communion with one another. This can have both a positive and negative effect.

So when I hear St Paul’s words to the Corinthians: “This is for your salvation…” I hear him say, “This saves you because we participate in a common life in Christ.” “This is to help build you up, which is my joy as your spiritual father.” “This will have it’s work of making you more like Christ, because this salvation is the healing of your souls.”

I can’t remember in which epistle this comes from, but essentially it says something to the effect that we are one another’s and are Christ’s and He is God’s (the Father). If we are so united, then how can we not effect one another’s salvation? This doesn’t mean “Effect whether or not you go to heaven”, but this conveys the idea, “We are on this journey together. Here, let me help you, and at some point you may help me.” I like that. What a gift, and what a joy.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. Darlene permalink
    September 3, 2010 9:49 am

    Jeremiah,

    We were talking about this very thing at our book study last night. Salvation is not just a “Jesus and me” matter. Others help us to work out our salvation. By ‘others’ I mean brothers and sisters in Christ, our neighbors, our family, our friends, even our enemies. Think of the ten commandments, 5 – 10 have to do with how we treat others. And thus Christ commanded us to “love our neighbor as ourselves.”

  2. September 3, 2010 5:52 pm

    It’s funny how things in our lives are connected to others in seemingly random ways. Like your book study and this post. Fr Stephen often posts something that I have been reflecting on (obviously WAY more articulate) or similar to one of my posts.
    It amazes me to think that for nearly 36 years of my life, I missed the point of the scriptures that refer to us as one, needing one another, and united in Christ, effecting each other’s salvation. I was taught to simply spiritualize them, since Christ and faith were “all I needed”.

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