Salvation is a key concept in Christianity and is defined as deliverance from the bondage of sin and its consequences [1]. In other words, to be saved is to be redeemed from death.

Salvation is the continued purpose – and ultimate goal – of the Christian life. Therefore, to live a true Christian life, it is fundamental that we have the correct understanding of how we might attain salvation. Regrettably, the theology of salvation is where some denominations within Christendom diverge [2].

In this three-part series, we will consider the Orthodox understanding of salvation and how we might attain it.

Summary

First and foremost, we are saved through the shedding of Christ’s blood on the cross.  Without the blood of Christ, there is no salvation.

Trampling down death by death, salvation as freedom from sin is a free gift which Christ purchased for all of mankind (Romans 3:24-25; John 8:36). However, as the parable of the wedding feast demonstrated (Matthew 22: 1–14), all invitations must be actively accepted and efforts must be made to attend (a wedding garment must worn). Therefore we must also actively accept this gift of salvation and play a role in attaining it. Indeed, the gospel makes it clear that not all will be saved (Matthew 7:13-14 & 21). Although Christ’s blood is sufficient for salvation, there are necessary conditions which we must meet in order to enjoy this gift. These conditions are:

  1. Faith
  2. Sacraments
  3. Good works

Because only those who endure to the end will be saved (Matthew 10:22), these conditions can require a lifetime to meet. For this reason, the Orthodox perspective asserts that attaining salvation is a journey in which there are three parts:

  • we have been saved (through the blood of Christ)
  • we are being saved (through participating in the conditions of salvation)
  • we will be saved (through the grace of God) [3] 

 

The Blood of Christ

As professed by Simeon the elder when he held the Christ child, Jesus Christ is the salvation of mankind through his death and resurrection (Luke 2:30; Psalm 118:14; Isaiah 12:2).

Orthodox theology strongly affirms this and this is particularly evident of the Holy Pascha Doxology ‘….O my Lord Jesus Christ, my Good Saviour, The Lord is my strength, my praise, and has become my sacred salvation.’[4]

Indeed, the blood of Christ is necessary for salvation as ‘without the shedding of blood, there is no remission [of sin]’ (Hebrews 9:22). All other conditions, no matter how excellent, are futile without the blood of Christ [5]

To understand why Christ’s blood is absolutely necessary for salvation, we must first consider what sin – which salvation provides deliverance from – actually means.

As King David expressed, sin is an evil committed against God alone (Psalm 51:4). As God is unlimited, so mankind’s sin against him is unlimited also. Therefore, deliverance from such an unlimited offense requires propitiation from an unlimited source. As the Son of God and a member of the Holy Trinity, Jesus is the only unlimited being able to meet this requirement as He is the ‘Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End. Who is and Who was and Who is the come, the Almighty’ (Revelation 1:8). The wages of sin is death and so for Christ to atone for the sins of mankind, He had to shed His blood and die in our place (Romans 6:23). St. Paul summarised that ‘there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself a ransom for all’ (I Timothy 2:5-6).

 

Join us for the second instalment in this series where we will consider the conditions for salvation – faith, sacraments and good works.

 

References

The Holy Bible. New King James Version.

[1] Malaty, T. Y., 1992. Dictionary of Church Terms. Alexandrea : St George Coptic Orthodox Church .

[2] H.H. Pope Shenouda III, 1980. The Heresy of Salvation in a Moment. Cairo: Dar El Tebaa El Kawmia.

[3] Wasfy, P., 2017. SALVATION: Why be a Christian? From a Coptic Orthodox Perspective. [Online]
Available at: http://mycorchurch.ca/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/Salvation-According-to-Coptic-Orthodox-Tradition.pdf
[Accessed 05 May 2020].

[4] St Mark Coptic Church , 2004. Holy Pascha: Order of Holy Week Services in the Coptic Orthodox Church. Jersey : Saint Mark Preaching Ministry.

[5] H.H. Pope Shenouda III, 1976. Salvation in the Orthodox Concept.. Cairo : Egyption Printing CO. .

 

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