Thursday, July 29, 2010

On the use of the word "save" and it's derivatives...

I wrote the following in response to a forum discussion, and you can see it there as well. But it reads like a Blog Post, and I needed something to put on here, since it's been a while, so here you go. :)

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I think overall Scriptural use of the term "save" and it's derivatives is not as cut-and-dried as popular theology might have it. Or at least not enough to use it as a technical term in soteriological discussions, without further qualification.

Let me throw these into the pot....

I Cor. 7:14-16 "For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband: else were your children unclean; but now they are holy. But if the unbelieving depart, let him depart. A brother or a sister is not under bondage in such cases: but God hath called us to peace. For what knowest thou, O wife, whether thou shalt save thy husband? or how knowest thou, O man, whether thou shalt save thy wife?"

I Tim. 4:16 "Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine; continue in them: for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee."

Clearly Paul has the idea that one human can "save" another by converting them. He even speaks of himself as saving people (I Cor. 9:22) "...that I might by all means save some." And again in Romans 11:14: "If by any means I...might save some of them."

James (5:20) has the same idea:

"Let him know, that he which converteth the sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins. "

Jude (1:23) also has this idea: "And others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire; hating even the garment spotted by the flesh."

Peter also uses the term, saying that by repentance and baptism (i.e. being converted), one might "save" one's own self (Acts. 2:40). In another place he says that the baptism itself "saves" (I Pet. 3:21), because the conscience is purified by faith, and the convert enters by it into the resurrection.

This is the process whereby God saves a person: upon believing the gospel, and having therefore repented, the convert is baptized into Christ's death, and (by grace through faith working in love) walks in the Spirit -- in newness of life -- shall be (by the operation of God) raised with Him (see Paul: Rom. 6:3, 4 and Col. 2:12). And so Jesus says, "He that believes and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believes not shall be damned."

So my thesis is proved: that Scripture uses the term "save" rather broadly -- to refer to the whole process of conversion, including the actions and teachings of those converting another; the repentance, faith, baptism, and continual living in the Spirit by the convert him/herself; and the "operation of God" (i.e. grace).

Therefore we see (from the Scriptures) that the process of this salvation is participatory; and not only does the person being saved participate, but also those praying for him, converting him, baptizing him, exhorting him, teaching him, etc (not to mention the operation of God Himself, without which none of the above would have any effect).

(NOTE: This is why we Orthodox offer and participate in the Eucharist "on behalf of all, and for all," and say at the end of Vespers, "Most Holy Theotokos, save us." These are reminders that we are each responsible for our neighbor's salvation, by our prayers, examples, exhortations, etc.)

When this broader definition is understood, the statement of Paul and Silas is rather obvious in it's import. There is no problem affirming that the faith of the one would save the whole household. Not that the merits of the one imputed by his faith would be then imputed to the others by that one's faith, regardless of the others' own faith. But rather that the faith of the one would (or should) be 'contagious,' as it were.

And such is the case, as we see in the following verses: they preached not only to the jailkeeper, but "to all that were in his house." And the jailkeeper "was baptized, he and all his" (italics mine). And he "rejoiced, believing in God with all his house."

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Hi! Feel free to comment. However, I was getting posts from different Anonymous people, and it's difficult to know who is who so I can keep the conversation straight in my head. So I'm requesting that you please bear with my weakness, and identify yourself. Even if you want to use a different name than your real name -- that's fine. But give yourself a handle for me, please. :) Thanks...