The word of the day is “shall.” “It ain’t over ‘till it’s over.” We can apply that saying to our salvation. Some would declare that they were saved at some moment in the past. And now they can rest in the assurance of their deliverance. But that like a biker who has climbed to the top of a hill. Now, he tells himself, he can coast down the hill without worry or effort. But the biker hasn’t finished the course. Soon another hill appears and he is unprepared to face its challenge.
But in today’s reading of romans 5:1-10, Paul speaks of salvation as a future happening. He writes, “For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life” (OSB vs. 10). Today we emphasize that salvation is a process that will be completed in the future.The trials that we are enduring are bringing us closer to salvation’s rescue from sin and death and its healing of the soul.
Shall Be Saved
For those who run the race of faith, the finish line has not yet come into view. Paul emphasizes that we “shall be saved.” What is in the past is the death of Christ and our reconciliation with God by His death (OSB vs. 10). Our love of God enacted by the Cross has overcome our animosity and turned us from enemies of our Creator into friends. But now we must live our justification and our reconciliation. It is not as if a verdict has been pronounced and nothing else is to be done.
“We are saved by His life!” This involves a change of metaphors. The Greek word for “saved” takes us down two metaphorical tracks. The first word picture is the deliverance or rescue from some sort of danger (Strong’s #4982, 245). The second is the deliverance or healing from some disease (Strong’s #4982, 245). Thus we can say that we were rescued from the dangers of sin, death, and the devil. And we were justified and reconciled with God, and therefore rescued from divine condemnation and alienation from our Creator.
But now, by our baptism, we have died with Christ to these forces of death and corruption. And by the “washing of regeneration” (OSB Titus 3:5), we have now risen with Christ to newness of life (OSB Romans 6:4).
St. Paul puts it, “As Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life” (OSB Romans 6:4). But now the mental image changes. Baptism puts us on the path of healing. We will be saved by Christ’s life.
Salvation as Healing
What kind of salvation? The healing of our souls? What life? The life of Christ’s resurrection. The Lord has risen to share His eternal life with us. And so He calls us to “abide in Him as He abides in us (John 15:4). As we remain in Him, we “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ (2 Peter 3:19)
In this process of healing, the image of God in which we were made is restored in us. That is, we become, we develop into, “partakers of the divine nature” (2 Peter 1:4). That is, growing to be ”like God by grace.”
We “were saved.” We “are being saved.” We “will be saved.” This can only mean that salvation is not a moment in time but a process that is going on throughout our lives.
How do we know this? How do we know it isn’t over yet? Well, the “tribulations” of the moment are proof enough that we haven’t reached our final deliverance. More than that, these sufferings demonstrate that the Lord isn’t through with us yet. But our sufferings are carrying us forward through the virtues of perseverance, character, and hope to the completion of the Lord’s work in us, our deification of becoming like God and sharing His eternal life.