[i]. Jesus’ teachings (e.g. the Sermon on the Mount) were filled with teachings and exhortations expecting his followers to abide by a particular way of life. Salvation is a synergistic act: God offers salvation, and we either accept it or reject it. Accepting it means that our life needs to be compatible with His – by striving to deny our will, and taking up our Cross daily and following Him (Lk 9:23).
Thus, the gift of salvation is not a one-time event, but a life-time process. We have been saved (past tense) through Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross. We are being saved (present tense) through the life in Christ. We hope to be saved (future tense) through God’s righteous judgement at the second coming.
So, what is the process of being saved? It requires belief that Jesus Christ is the Son of God as the promised Messiah; as articulated in the Nicene Creed. It requires proof of this faith by growing in God’s image and likeness. It requires tapping into God’s divine energies through participation in the Holy Sacraments of the Church. It requires anticipation of the final judgement.
Salvation is the attainment of the Kingdom of Heaven. Both Jesus and St John the Baptist, from the onset of their ministries, emphasised that “the Kingdom of heaven is at hand” (e.g. Mat 3:2, 4:17). The Kingdom of Heaven is not an arbitrary promise, but an intimate reality; we begin experiencing the Kingdom on this earth. The lives of the saints are living examples of this.
The Orthodox understanding of salvation is summed up in the doctrine of theosis. As St Athanasios the Great notes, God became human, so that we might become god. This resonates with the words of the apostle Peter:
His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness… by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, that through these you may escape from the corruption that is in the world because of passion, and become partakers of the divine nature. (2 Pet 1:3-4).
To be partakers of the divine nature is to fulfil the role of humanity as God intended when He created us. Being created in His image and likeness means that we are complete and perfected when in total communion with God. The Saints inspire us as to how this is possible. Thus, our salvation is simply our reunion with our Creator.
† Fr G. L.
[i] Stylianopoulos, Theodore. How are we saved? http://www.goarch.org/ourfaith/how-are-we-saved.
Source: December 2015 – January 2016 Lychnos Edition