The Mystery of Salvation

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Salvation is truly the great mystery of human life. Essentially we are saying that the path from where we are now, in our sins, to where we shall be, conformed to the image of Christ, is as unknown to us as possible. We know the commandments of Christ, and our weakness both in keeping those commandments faithfully, as well as our weakness before temptation in almost any form. How do we get from here to there?

This is indeed the great mystery. The answer to the mystery is Christ Himself. In His death and resurrection His has made for all a path to salvation and there is no salvation outside of Him. That statement of doctrine may be more of a tautology than some casual readers realize, since salvation, in Christian terms, is, by definition, union with Christ. This is important for us to understand for our salvation is not an extrinsic reward – a ticket to heaven – but an inner transformation in which we are united with God, and through Him and the workings of His grace are changed into the fullness of what we are created to be.

The path of how we get from here to there is something like asking how do we go from one state of being to another? Again, the answer is Christ. But the answer is also, His Church. For in His Church, Christ has left us the vehicle of our salvation, the concrete means by which this transformation occurs in our lives.

Beginning with Baptism, we are plunged into the death of Christ and raised in the likeness of His resurrection – we are united to Him. The whole of our life in the Church is the living of this union with Christ. Every action we take within the Church, whether sacramental, or even casual and relational, is given to us for our salvation. I believe that even those members of the Body of Christ whom we find most annoying are also given to us for our salvation.

The path from here to there is a mystery. We do not know what is needed, on a moment by moment basis for our salvation other than to say that we need Christ. How we need Christ is the mystery. Sometimes I need Him as the one to whom I confess my sins. Sometimes I need Him as the one who comforts me in my sorrow. Sometimes I need Him as the one who brings me up short and causes me to see what I could not see before. Such a list is endless.

But most important in all of this is that it is a mystery: we do not know the answer to the question. We are not in charge of the process of our own salvation. God saves. By the same token, our own priest does not generally know what we need for our salvation. He knows the sacraments, the teachings of the Church, the commandments of Christ, but on a moment by moment basis, he knows no more than we do as to the details of the mystery.

And thus we all walk by faith, obeying Christ’s commandments as best we can – availing ourselves of the sacraments frequently, refraining from judging others for we do not know the path of their salvation either.

It is a life we live – and a life that we live by the grace of God.

I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me (Galatians 2:20).

Much of this is a statement of the obvious and of the simple. And yet, much of this seems to be forgotten by most on a daily basis. We either substitute some legal fiction for the reality of true salvation, or we mistakenly think that our salvation depends upon us, or we do not understand that everything in our life is given to us for our salvation (Romans 8:28). But, the mystery abides and remains, and is kind and generous enough to allow us to return to our senses from time to time.

17 comments:

  1. “The path from here to there is a mystery. We do not know what is needed, on a moment by moment basis for our salvation other than to say that we need Christ.”

    After years of getting caught in debates and being surrounded by formulaic explanations of salvation, I can’t tell you how comforting the statement salvation is a mystery is to me. It was one of the things that attracted me most to Orthodoxy.

    I’m thankful for this reminder that Christ is not only the gate to salvation and its final end, but the process as well. All of salvation, all of life, is Christ. Thank you for this.

  2. Father Stephen – you have no idea how much I needed to hear this. Thank you for cooperating with Christ and posting it. Lord have mercy. Christ have mercy. Lord have mercy.

  3. It is a beautiful mystery. I don’t know why He chose to reveal Himself to me, but I am so thankful He did. Without Him daily, I don’t know how I would make it.

    Thanks for reminding me of the mystery of it all.

  4. I’m not sure I follow.

    Romans 10:13 KJV

    For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.

    Romans 10:10 KJV

    For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.

    Perhaps you are implying that salvation is a mystery because there are relatively so few who find it?

  5. Adam,

    I am referring to the entire process of salvation from beginning to end – from accepting Christ until we are conformed to His image. Scripture also tells us to “work out your salvation from day to day with fear and trembling” which, of course, is a different meaning of the word than its use in the verses you cited. The New Testament writers use “salvation” both for the immediacy of our acceptance of Christ, and also for the whole of our life in Christ (which I refer to as a mystery – it is worked out in ways that we do not always see or understand). Some Christian traditions refer to this latter work as “sanctification” but the New Testament doesn’t make a clear distinction between the two. I hope that is helpful.

  6. Adam,

    Note the strangeness of our language: “I am saved” or “I have been saved.” Saved from what? Hellfire? But the time of hellfire comes at the end of our lives when we are judged. Surely if “saved” refers only to salvation from hell, we should say, “I will be saved.”

    And yet, is it only hell from which we are saved? No. We are saved not only from death, but from the source of death, which is sin. And we are saved into life in Christ.

    Thus, it is appropriate to say that “I am saved” even now, though the judgment has not yet come and that “I was saved” on the day I first trusted Christ, because through Christ that we can have confidence for the day of judgment. And this confidence comes from the work of sanctification and is accompanied with “fear and trembling” at the magnitude of our salvation, since it is “God who is working in” us.

  7. Iam blessed by this mystery, its beyond comprehesion thats why we are called to walk in faith. The grace of Jesus christ, the love of God and the felloship of the holly spirit- The chief of all mystries

  8. Fr. Stephen,

    I suspect the post by Moses is spam. When I tried to click the linked name, I got a security warning that the link was attempting to open a file from my own intranet. Not cool!

  9. Rhonda,

    Moses appears to have put the string “n/a” into the “Website” field (thus to indicate he does not have a website), which may be getting interpreted by your browser as a local file. Unless Fr. Stephen has changed something, I don’t think he’s attempting to trick us into a dangerous link. 🙂

  10. CZ

    Your observation is correct. This browzer has a bias against certain comments that could be quite useful in addressing the challenge of salvation mystery. I demand that you make a follow up on comments I have made so far,which you have treated as spaam or close down your website to Public. Fear God and be genuine in everything you do.
    Very disappointed with Rhoda.

  11. Moses,
    A blog is not the same thing as a “public site.” Your postings have not been relevant to the conversation, but seem to be your own stuff, like dropping off a witness pamphlet. If you want to be read in that way, then create your own website and get your own traffic. I don’t accept random postings. Sorry if that interferes with what you think is your God-given mission. I fear God, but that doesn’t mean I have to post your stuff.

    This is a private blog. Comments have to be approved by me. If they suit the conversation they get approved. If not they get trashed or spam. We have 1 million views a year. I have to maintain some reasonable requirements and standards since this is not a paid position or full-time. It’s my private blog and I owe no one any right to do anything.

  12. Fr Stephen

    Sir, am so sorry. I did not know it was your private blog,but why engage into God’s matters and limit liberal participants to your IQ? Sir,I do not mean to offend you by any means. Kindly think and pray about this to enhance the noble works of your blog. Sir,with due respect, I wish you well.Do not take offence,but forgive my initial ignorance concerning your blog.Your advice has been taken.Thanks.

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