Have You Been “Saved?”Fr. Barnabas Powell
“Have you been saved?” The sincere lady was looking intently at me and waiting for my answer to her probing question. You see, she was “witnessing” to me in hopes I would be “saved.” Most of us have either experienced this sort of question or know someone who has been asked this at one time or another.
And, in my old way of Faith, I would have proudly answered “Yes, I’m saved.” But now that I have been exposed to deeper wisdom and timeless Orthodoxy, I usually answer that question in a way that would invite my questioner to think deeper than they may have before. I said to her, “Yes, I was saved in the year 33 A.D. outside of the city of Jerusalem on a hill called Calvary.” She was a bit confused, but the subsequent conversation helped her a great deal. I told her that the meaning of salvation was so much bigger than a “get out of hell free” card and the reality of God’s grace for us all is that, in a very real way, we are all “saved” from the consequences of sin by Jesus. His grace extends to everyone. But, sadly, there will be those who dismiss or reject this love and grace from God. But their rejection doesn’t undo the Life of Jesus. It just guarantees the foolish person experiences God’s love as torment, rather than a purifying “fire.”
Look at our lesson today in Romans 5:10-16:
Brethren, if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. Not only so, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received our reconciliation.
Therefore as sin came into the world through one man and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all men sinned — sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law. Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sins were not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come.
But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if many died through one man’s trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift in the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many. And the free gift is not like the effect of that one man’s sin. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brings justification.
St. Paul starts his wisdom and insight today with a harsh truth we were enemies of God. Notice he doesn’t say God is our enemy, but that “enemy status” is on our end towards God. Not the other way around. But God, never treating us as enemies, reconciled us to Himself by the death of Jesus Christ. Notice what he says next “Now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his (Jesus’) life.”
Paul sets up his insight into our salvation with three important revelations:
First, We are Enemies! This humble and honest assessment of humans’ attitudes toward God is all too clear today. Alexander Kalomiros once wrote in an article called “The River of Fire” that modern man doesn’t so much not believe in God as much as modern man believes in God and hates Him. We stubbornly live as if God doesn’t exist in our actions, priorities, and devotions. We treat God as if He was our “enemy;” the cosmic “party pooper” not wanting us to have any “fun.” This arrogant and misguided way of thinking means we treat God in a way He has never, nor will He ever, treat us. This human blindness always leads to death. By the way, we must acknowledge we are opposite from God but He is not angry with us. He loves us.
Next, Jesus Death kills Death. God doesn’t treat us as enemies but as prodigals. So, what does He do? He comes to us in the flesh and then embraces a cruel and horrible death SO THAT death and all the ugliness of our world without Him can be seen for the impotent things they are. He reconciles us by destroying the very thing that enslaves us to fear and self-centered living. It is the fear of death that drives so much of our selfish choices and priorities. Our fear of physical death makes us defensive, suspicious, and self-focused. And all the “fruits” of this fear of death are always bad! We weren’t created to die, so Jesus comes and kills death for us through His death!
Finally, Jesus Saves Us with His Life. Now God, in Christ, shares His life with us. He takes our death and destroys it. He then replaces our temporariness with His Eternal Life and calls us to a life of grateful love in response to His unspeakable Gift. Through one man, we all died. And now, through one Man we all now are saved! The Resurrection of Jesus, the real, physical, and bodily Resurrection of Jesus undoes the power of death for us even in our physical bodies. Now the destiny of all of humanity is Life, not Death. Now, because He lives we all shall live too! And that means our most important task is learning how to enjoy the eternal life God, in His grace, has granted us all!
St. Amos the Prophet is commemorated today. This great saint of the Hebrew Scriptures was born in Thekoue of the land of Zabulon. He was a simple man, a shepherd of goats and sheep, but in his simpleness was great wisdom. The Lord used this prophet of the people to warn them of an impending earthquake, and the wisdom of Amos was preserved for us in the book that bears his name in the Hebrew Scriptures. The very fact that God didn’t require some great scholar to minister to His people proves that the greatest mark of a servant of God is his humble availability to serve God and His people.
Today, are you willing to abandon the notion that you and God are enemies? Time to wake up and smell the victory of God over death and new life in Christ. Being saved is all about living every day as a Normal Orthodox Christian!
P.S. As we celebrate the memory of Your Prophet Amos, O Lord, through him we beseech You to save our souls.