Fr. Stavros N. Akrotirianakis is the Proistamenos of St. John Greek Orthodox Church in Tampa, FL. Fr. contributes the Prayer Team Ministry, a daily reflection, which began in February 2015. The Prayer Team now has its own dedicated website! Fr. Stavros has produced two books, “Let All Creation Rejoice: Reflections on Advent, the Nativity and Epiphany”: “https://amzn.to/2t1rXwh and “The Road Back to Christ: Reflections on Lent, Holy Week and the Resurrection.” https://amzn.to/2WAcfG0
Why Do I Need a Savior?
“For to you is born this day in the city of David, a Savior who is Christ the Lord” Luke 2:11
Good morning Prayer Team!
Are you saved? We hear this question a lot in religious circles. What does it mean for us?
In order to be found, one has to have a sense that he or she is lost. And in order to be saved, one has to have a sense that he or she needs saving. The questions then are: What do I need saving from? And how am I saved?
Before answering these questions, allow me to redefine some terms we use in our society. We use the word “life” to refer to the period of time we are alive on earth. We use the word “death” to refer to the moment when “life” on earth ends. To understand salvation, it is helpful redefine these terms. Let’s call our time on earth “preparation” because the time is temporary, and our time on earth prepares us for what comes after the time is over. “Passing” is what happens when “preparation” is over. We “pass away.” And the opportunity to “prepare” ends. And then after we pass away, one of two things happens. Either we go to “eternal LIFE” which we call salvation in the Kingdom of Heaven. Or we “die”, and are permanently estranged from God. We live in a state of “death” and eternal condemnation.
We prepare. We pass. And then we either go to life or to death.
So to the question “from what are we being saved,” the answer is, by living a life in Christ, we are “saved” from death. Jesus tells us in John 5:24, “Truly, truly I say to you, he who hears My word and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life; he does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.”
We are all going to undergo a physical death, that is we will all stop breathing at some point, our bodies will shut down, and they will be buried and decay, but our souls will go to God for judgment and they will pass either into a state of condemnation, or into eternal life.
Again, Jesus tells us in John 11: 25-26, “I am the Resurrection and the Life; he who believes in Me, though he die, yet shall he live, and whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die.”
And in St. Paul’s Epistle to the Romans, he writes: “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? We were buried therefore with Him by baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with Him in a death like His, we shall certainly be united with Him in a Resurrection like His.” (Romans 6: 3-5)
So, we are saved from “death”, which is eternal separation from God, and through the death and Resurrection of Christ, we have a pathway to salvation, which is eternal “life” in the Kingdom of God.
How, then, are we saved? The simple answer is that we are not saved in ONE moment of time. Many Christians ascribe to the teaching of “once saved, always saved,” so that is a person comes forth at a specific moment in time, they can say “I was saved on such and such day.” And if you ask them “Have you been saved?” they can point to a specific date, time and place.
We answer this question in this way. Salvation is a continuous action. It does not happen at one moment in time. Because I have been baptized and believe, I have the potential to be saved (faith). I must work towards my salvation today (works). And ultimately I will be saved by God’s grace (grace). All three work in tandem.
St. Paul write in Ephesians 2: 8-10, “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God—not because of works, lest any man should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”
Another way to understand faith, works and grace is to take a cup, some rocks and some water. The cup represents the faith—it is the structure of what we believe. But faith without works is an empty faith. The rocks represent works. But works done without faith are like rocks spread over a table, they have no structure or goal and are ends to themselves. So we combine faith and works by putting the rocks in the cup. And yet there are still spaces in the cup that are empty. This is where the water (grace) comes in. Pour water over the rocks and the cup is filled, there are no more empty spaces.
So we combine a cup, rocks and water and we end up with a full cup. And combine faith, works and grace, and you end up with salvation. It doesn’t happen in a defined moment. It happens over time. It is a daily choice. It is a daily struggle to maintain the faith and the works and keep asking for the grace.
As for the question “are you saved?” I answer with this: I have the potential to be saved. I am working on my salvation today. I hope to ultimately be saved by God’s grace.
Why do I need salvation? Because I am a sinner, and as St. Paul writes in Romans 6:23, “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Christ coming to earth at the Nativity and dying on the Cross for my sins on Good Friday, and being Resurrected from the dead on Pascha, these are the things that open the possibility of my being saved from “death.” I am still going to “die” one day, but because of Christ, my Savior, I have the potential to “pass” from “death” to “life.” I have the opportunity to not live in a state of eternal death, but in a state of eternal life.
Let Your mercies quickly overtake us, for we have become very poor. Help us, O God our savior; because of the glory of Your name, O Lord, save us, and be merciful to our sins because of Your name. (Prayer from the Royal Hours, Trans. Fr. Seraphim Dedes)
Work on your salvation today!
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The Orthodox Christian Network (OCN) is an official agency of the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops. OCN offers videos, podcasts, blogs and music, to enhance Orthodox Christian life. The Prayer Team is a daily devotion written by Fr. Stavros N. Akrotirianakis, the parish priest at St. John the Baptist Greek Orthodox Church in Tampa, Florida. Devotions include a verse from scripture, a commentary from Fr. Stavros, and a short prayer that he writes to match the topic.
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