Sunday, September 11, 2016

Are you saved?

Living in the South, this question has become as common to me as ‘good morning’, but what exactly does it mean? In the Orthodox Christian Tradition our answer is quite different from the Protestant Tradition. Many Protestants, especially those of the ‘Born Again’ tradition, can remember the exact date on which they submitted their life to Jesus Christ. Some can even remember what time is said on the clock when they raised their hands and said the ‘sinner’s prayer’ in Church. Why don’t we Orthodox Christians have this same tradition?

When it comes to ‘being saved’ the Orthodox Church teaches a different understanding of our relationship with God than other Christians. What makes the issue more complicated is that we often use the same terms, like saved, to discuss quite different concepts. So when an Orthodox Christian is asked the question, “Are you saved?” our answer should be, “I was saved, I am saved, and I am being saved.” We do not pinpoint our salvation to an exact moment in time as do many Protestants. For us, the concept is different.

Look at this morning’s Gospel as an example. It includes one of the most famous verses of the Holy Scriptures, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” (John 3.16 NKVJ) But the scriptures also says, “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3.14-15 NKJV) This image from the Old Testament is given to us by God to recall His Promise which we learn about in the Old Testament.

When we Orthodox Christians speak about ‘being saved’ we are speaking not about a moment in time, but a relationship with Jesus Christ as promised many centuries ago. “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, and you shall be a guard for His heel.” (Genesis 3.15 SAAS) From the very moment our ancestors were deceived by the serpent, God made a promise to defeat the serpent. To save us from the serpent’s victory, God sent a Savior, Who is Christ. So the first part of “I WAS saved,” is an acknowledgment that God defeated the devil and death.

But the Scripture also says, “He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.” (John 3.18 NKJV) So the, “I AM saved and the I AM BEING saved,” is an acknowledgement that being saved from death isn’t the entire picture since we are all saved from death through the birth, death and resurrection of our Lord. But Jesus accomplished more than just defeating death. He united humanity to divinity in Himself. So long as we BELIEVE, being saved from death is not condemnation. But if we do not believe then being saved from death leads to condemnation.

So are you saved? Ultimately the answer is an open question. Time will tell whether or not you really believe. Time will tell whether or not you look upon Christ Crucified (that is the image of Moses and serpent) and believe that He has come to unite you to Himself. You WILL BE saved over and over again, every day if you believe, “For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.” (John 3.17 NKJV)

No comments: