Stump the Chaps IX-b: “Once Saved/In Hope – An Exploration”

Greetings, ST, ‘Sieurs, and ‘Ettes.

It’s always a treat to be with you for these posts. This time around, I’m responding to a further request from our gracious host: Would I sketch out the two viewpoints toward the question often asked in the Reform Christian tradion: “Are you saved?” I’ll gladly attempt to illustrate these approaches, without making any ‘debating points’. Instead, let’s imagine a possible conversation between friends about two of the most common ways of looking at this life-orienting choice. As a reminder, no matter which view a person takes, it is rooted in an overall decision to turn toward God, despite individual choices that may – at times – result in our getting sidetracked along the path.

The first view is often called “once saved, always saved”. Someone who holds this view largely understands salvation in and through Christ as an individually-situated, all-inclusive, single event. (One that can often be recalled by day/date/time.) Its power and gift is felt to be great enough that it covers all of one’s actions, regardless of motivation or consequence, from that moment on – encompassing one’s past, present, and future.

Another view, which could be called “saved in hope” – though it really doesn’t have a ‘catchphrase’ – describes someone who sees salvation as an ongoing process that requires one’s active participation and assent on a continuing basis; daily, if not more frequently. Although it isn’t quite the “St. Paul on the Road to Damascus” moment, there are more faith-community milestones that can be recalled on the path to making an inherited, communal faith committed and personal. These often involve sacramental celebrations: Baptism, Reconciliation/Penance, Communion, Confirmation, Marriage, Ordination-Consecration, Anointing of the Sick. I hear you saying: “Very nice, Chaps, but…Where’s the ‘conversation’ you promised us?” Coming right up, gentle readers. Let’s listen in, as “Rick” and “Jane” work their way through the “How?” of new life in Christ, together. (“Rick” goes first, followed by “Jane”. )

“Jesus’ Embrace” (HeavenLight, via Pintrest)

R: Hi, Jane! Thanks for coming to our small-group study, looking at the idea of ‘once saved, always saved’. Let’s start with St. Paul, in his letter to the Romans, chapter 10, verse 9: “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.” [KJV] This looks and sounds like once and for all, doesn’t it?

J: Hello, Rick! I’m glad you invited me. The different ways that people think about their walk with Christ have always interested me. If St. Paul tells the church in Rome that speaking and believing once is enough, what do we do with his further words to the Romans in chapter 13, verse 11: “And that, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep: for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed.”? Related thoughts on Paul’s part are present in his first letter to the community in Corinth [1 Cor. 3:15] and [1 Cor. 5:5] about what should happen to an individual who breaks faith, requiring repentance and restoration.

Also, Paul’s reminder to the faithful at Ephesus – that salvation is an unearned gift – not the result of any action on their part, may point us toward God’s action as Giver. Seeing ourselves as receiving a gift. You and I can’t just ‘magically’ obtain it as an entitlement by saying the right words to compel God’s compliance. One’s entry into salvation is just the start of a lifelong interactive process. Seeing salvation as a gift and process also pulls us away from self-satisfaction and assurance that grace cannot be lost through our decision to sin, ever. Let’s also recall that gifts are, by definition, given in freedom. They can be accepted, rejected, and restored because of our freedom, as children of One who created us for that freedom [Galatians, chapter 5, verse 1]. Just because your seatbelt and door locks keep you safely inside a moving vehicle – while someone else drives down the highway – nothing is preventing you from loosening the seatbelt, unlocking and opening the door; prior to jumping out while the vehicle is underway….God values our freedom more than we cherish our safety.

R: That’s a lot to think and pray about, Jane.

Where does that sense of salvation as pure gift – that is ours to receive or reject – put us with respect to John, chapter 10, verse 28: “And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.” [KJV] Doesn’t Jesus mean what he says, and say what he means? We’re safely in his hands, and we can’t ever be taken from him, can we?

J: Well, Rick, it’s certainly true that once we’re *in* Jesus’ hands, we cannot be ‘snatched’ from them. Jesus, during his last supper with the apostles, reassures them that they are to him like a vine and its branches. St. Paul reminds his spiritual children in Rome, and elsewhere, of their closeness to Christ. Spiritual father that he is, he also cautions them about the consequences of freely separating themselves from the love of God in Christ. He even shares about his own efforts to be vigilant.

In fact, Paul advises the Philippians to “[W]ork out your own salvation, with fear and trembling” [Phil. chapter 2, verse 12] while he is away from them. Since salvation takes place in the context of *relationship* to Christ and fellow believers, there are necessarily past, present, and future dimensions in and through it, since we as human beings change and, hopefully, grow.

R: Jane, we’re glad you came tonight, it’s been a learning opportunity for all of us! Shall we head to the kitchen for coffee, cake, and conversation?

J: Thanks, I’ve enjoyed it, Rick…Lead on, to the kitchen. You folks have a lovely fellowship hall.

Chaps, here….Hope the role-play was enjoyable. Have at it in the comments. Thanks for reading!

Until next time, Blessings and Peace…Out!

15 thoughts on “Stump the Chaps IX-b: “Once Saved/In Hope – An Exploration”

  1. Taking everyone to online Mass later this morning: I’ll be back here after church, for brunch….Blessed Sunday, for some, into Monday, for others! Hasta entonces! La paz sea contigo!

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  2. There was a Methodist minister at our local church who believed (privately: he never preached on it) that Jesus’ sacrifice saved everybody, once and for all. No matter what individuals do or think. They don’t have to even “accept”. It’s like herd immunity or sump’n. I think he based this on the idea that, really, what could one individual ever do that would appease GOD? I mean, He’s GOD, and we’re each just a puny human.
    This reminded me of one of the early Christian writers, Aquinas? Augustine? —who explained the whole thing I feudal terms. If a great Lord was offered an insult by a peon, there’s no way the people himself could ever atone for it. The atonement has to be by somebody of the aristocrat’s own rank. Thus, Jesus-God died to atone for the insult offered to Jaweh-God by Adam’n’Eve, mere humans. Done! And you’re welcome! as far as the rest of humanity is concerned. I would like to believe that.

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    1. I knew a very conservative Catholic priest who was very active in the pro-life movement who held beliefs very similar to the Methodist minister you speak of, Hypatia-except this priest did preach it. He cited the Bible passage in which Jesus said “….on this rock I shall build my Church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” He pointed out that Jesus’ words seem to suggest that the Church will break down the gates of hell. Not exactly the same as the minister’s beliefs, but along the same lines.

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      1. Hi, JaC and Hyp! I think, if we live long enough – and open-hearted enough – as people of faith, the Father’s love in Christ becomes more real and present to us; but, its nature as gift becomes more clear, too. So, our efforts to keep that gift active in ourselves – and available to others, daily -become even more important. Not as cosmic ‘brownie points’, but as love in return for Love. Thanks and Blessed Sunday!

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      2. Oooh, have you ever read The Gospel of Nicodemus (12th cent) about the harrowing of hell? That’s what Jesus was doing the 3 days He was dead (cuz no one can enter hell who hasn’t died). He goes down, with The Baptist heralding Him, who commands the gates of hell to open ,and they do, and He leads out all who died before His sacrifice, starting with Adam, and including all the OT prophets and faithful. And Hades (yup, he’s still in there, too! ) j says to Satan:
        “All that you gained through the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge, you have now lost through the fruit of the Tree of the Cross!”
        (Why the f does this still make me tear up?!?!)

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      3. Have not read it, but Jesus’ ‘harrowing of Hell’ is a theme of worship – especially on the “waiting” day of Holy Saturday – before the exaltation of the Easter Vigil….My favorite celebration! I tear up through the whole Triduum….I’m an absolute wreck at Lent/Easter….I have to be careful not to worry people. -smile-

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      4. About Nanda’s comment re harrowing of hell: yeah, but we used to say “He descended into Hell” before “on the third day”, in the Nicene Creed, and now, we don’t anymore. TheGospel of Nicodemus is, literally, “apocryphal”. But now the belief in the harrowing of hell is evidently unorthodox.

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      5. Not for me, Hyp….I guess we can only talk about one of the “Four Last Things” now, Doesn’t mean they’re not still true; and just because something didn’t make it into the canon of Scripture it still has value as a record of Tradition. The Early Church Fathers speak of this event, too.

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    2. Hyp, Aquinas would’ve used feudal terms; expiation sacrifice to restore right relationship – not quite “substitutionary” tit-for-tat; Christ opened the gates of the garden for us, again, but we have to decide to walk toward it, and choose to enter. Jesus advises us to follow in His footsteps – through our own ‘calvaries’. Blanket coverage, with no real participation from us *makes us less human, because it makes us less free.*

      JaC,the Church may, indeed, destroy Hell, at the last; but perhaps not until we stop *making life ‘hell’* for ourselves and others. We don’t have a God’s-eye view, but we can try, when/where/with whom we are, yes?

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  3. Nanda, I adore your simulation of an inter-Christian fellowship dialogue, but, with absolutely no disrespect to you, I hafta laugh! You kiddin’? Christians have killed each other for centuries over far more arcane doctrinal differences. Well, I guess there’s nothing coffee ‘n’ sweet buns can’t resolve ! 😘

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    1. Yeah, Hyp, I know it, for true! But, I’m not sure we believe in things strongly-enough to fight – and/or die – for them anymore….Sorta saddening. Glad I made you chuckle!

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    2. ….And, we’ve come way too far, it seems, from the days when Judeo–Greco-Christianity was seen as something new and liberating; not to mention something people were still trying to codify/define. Maybe, if we’d tried more of the Kaffeeklatsch model for councils, synods, and theses nailed to cathedral doors, things would’ve gone smoother?

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  4. Gonna call it a day, friends, so I can start the next one; back later on today – after a bit of time at the office – glad y’all enjoyed this entry in the series! A survey of St. Paul’s letters – and an answer to whether he may’ve inspired a whole cadre of comedians: Groucho Marx, et al. with remarks about marriage and other life choices – is in the hopper. Stay tuned. G’day/G’night, Blessings and Peace….Hasta entonces!

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