Friday, March 10, 2006

Being In Christ

Cousin Jodi has asked me to write a post on "remaining in Christ"--I'll try to oblige.

Many of us grew up as Christians in a broadly evangelical context--which essentially means Baptist at least theologically, and probably also culturally too.

So, for those of us who did, remaining in Christ might even be a foreign phrase. I mean, I prayed the prayer, what else do you want to know? The other reality is that for a certain group within evangelical Christianity, there is another phrase that comes into play: "Once saved, always saved."

Evangelical Christianity can be divided rather neatly into the more Calvinist camp of the once saved always saved variety and the more Arminian camp, which, to the Calvinists' horror, believes one can lose one's salvation, thus drawing God's sovereignty into question.

For my two cents--prepare to be shocked those of you who still live in the Baptistic culture (and even more shocked if you live in the Reformed culture)--the whole Calvinist/Arminian debate is a colossal waste of time! The catholic perspective is that God is sovereign and we have free will (I'll save that discussion for another time) and our salvation is connected to both of those ideas. Essentially, we are saved by the grace of God, not anything that we have done--be it belief, faith, baptism or the "sinners prayer".

But faith is a necessary part of that process called salvation, as is baptism, and for many a prayer is also part of the process.

Of course, defining salvation is important to this discussion, so let us quickly define salvation as "being in Christ". Of course, salvation is not just a once for all event, but St. Paul and others continually remind us to keep working out our salvation, in fear and trembling even. We were saved, are being saved, and will finally be saved.

So, if salvation is a continual process, then we ought to be concerned about continuing to be in the process--or as we might put it, remaining in Christ. We are incorporated into Christ in our baptism. That means we become a part of His body. Remaining in Christ is essentially remaining a part of His body, the Church.

How do we make sure to do that? Primarily, that means we participate in the corporate life of the Church in worship; in Word and Sacrament. When we cut ourselves off from the means of our feeding and strengthening, then it is us who dies, not Christ's Church.

Our salvation lies in Christ, and He has ordained that to be a part of Him is to be a part of His Church. They are one and the same.

Noah had faith, yes. Noah put that faith into practice in building the ark. But this did not save Noah. Noah could not just stand around in the rain and go on and on about his faith. That would have got him nowhere but drowned. Noah needed to put his faith in action and get himself into that ark. That's what saved Noah--by being in the ark. So too, we have to come, over and over again, to the ark of Christ. We need to leave the floodwaters behind and enter into the ark--to go into the Holy of Holies where the Ark of the Covenant is. We enter by the shed blood of Christ. We enter after confessing our sins--our dealings out there in the rain and the floods where there is death--and begging for God's forgiveness. We participate in the worship of the Church, hearing the Word read and preached and participating in the visible Word of the Sacrament of the Body and Blood of Christ.

This is (barring unrepentant sin) how we remain in Christ and where we find our assurance. It is a continual life in Christ, always repenting and confessing, always giving ourselvers, body and soul, to God, always reaching for the "prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus."

Hope that helps, Cous'--though none too eloquent, nor detailed. I'll do my best to answer specific questions!

13 comments:

Miss Steinberg said...

So then, we are justified by faith, and also justified by works-- if Paul and James are friends, at least!

Miss Steinberg said...

Hm... can I say "justified by works" or is that breaking some law of the Reformation? :)

father foos said...

Yes, we cannot pit St. Paul against St. James. St. James says we are justified by works and not faith only. Faith without works is a dead faith according to James, so our faith must be active. I Cor. 13 is pretty clear on what sort of life we're supposed to lead--it's all about others--active love, active faith.

Of course, the thing to remember is that we are always falling short, so we must always be going to God to confess our sins and St. John says that He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins!

Thus, we remain in Christ. And, this remaining is not essentially an individual thing we do in our prayer closet, though we ought to do it then and any time we sin. Jesus tell us it is a corporate thing--a Church thing ( John 20:21-23).

LiteraryGirl said...

I actually think you put it very well, at least you were able to verbalize what I think. I like how you said the debate is a waste of time, because really if we are in Christ there is no reason to have the discussion. Thank you! I may just print it off and add it to my VERY LARGE FOLDER of other things you have sent me. (And aren't I waiting on a few more???) And, on a different note, any chance you are willing to change layouts? The black absolutely kills my eyes. I'm currently seeing lines as I write this.

Sank said...

What a great piece of writing. You have explained to me, in a way I "get" the whole concept of Christian salvation. A concept that my evangelical, dare I say fundamentalist, friends have been trying to explain for the last 5 years. I'm coming to this discussion from a Jewish perspective, where faith is framed in a process of repair and doing good works. Now I get where they're coming from. Thanks

amy said...

So, do you believe that inorder to be saved we must be baptized? What do you think of deathbed confessions?

father foos said...

Sank,

I’ll take the compliments, thanks, but you’re scaring me with the “…in a way I ‘get’ the whole concept of Christian salvation” comment. What did I say that actually could communicate that? I’m doubtful that I’ve communicated that well.

You’ll have to forgive my lack of knowledge about contemporary Judaism. Doing good works is definitely part of the faith of Biblical religion, Old and New Testament. Repair is an interesting word. There is definitely a sense of repair the process of redemption from a Christian perspective. The brokenness of Man is being repaired in and by Christ and through His Church. The brokenness of the world itself is being repaired. The more obvious image in the New Testament is actually re-creation. Christ arose from the grave on the eighth day, the first day of the week, creation day, yet also the eighth day, re-creation day, as it were.

Of course, the Church sees herself as on a mission to “rebuild the old ruins, …raise up the former desolations, …repair the ruined cities, the desolations of many generations.” So, the Church herself is about the work of Christ and his kingdom—repairing and rebuilding; re-creating.

father foos said...

Amy,

It’s probably even worse than that….

I believe what the Church has always believed (so it’s nothing new or novel or intelligent on my part), that Jesus meant it when he said,

Most assuredly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For My flesh is food indeed, and My blood is drink indeed. He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him.

I also believe Peter when he answers the question: “What must we do [to be saved]?” with “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”

So in short, yes, I believe that we must partake of the dominical sacraments (Holy Baptism and Holy Communion) in order to be in Christ. Yet, let me also say that I do not believe God is a legalist and that the Church, when she is functioning correctly, is also not legalistic.

So, yes, God can save someone on a deserted island who doesn’t have a missionary with him, not even a Bible, and definitely not the Church to administer baptism and holy communion.

But do we want to pretend that we’re on a desert island and avoid the means of grace that God has given His Church? That sounds an awful lot like tempting God. “Yeah, God, I know you told us to be baptized, but I know you can save without it, so save me without it!”

What do I think of deathbed confessions (conversions)?? Hmm….well, I’m quite happy about them. I give an opportunity for those at the point of departure to make their confession (either the first confession of Christ or a confession of sins). It’s very discouraging when the opportunity to confess Christ is not taken. I’d much rather have the other situation.

Thanks for the questions…hope this helps.

Sank said...

The concept of Tikkun Olam, in Hebrew repairing the world. Our duty on earth is to participate in that repair, through study, worship (the Hebrew here is ambiguous meaning both worship and work) and acts of loving kindness.
When I've had these sorts of discussions with my friends I never got the feeling that salvation was a continual process, but that it stopped with baptism, adult baptism at that, and then, like Calvin, you were done.
Your paragraph about Noah, ironically an old testament figure, mentions that just believing isn't enough, that there is work to do, which for me makes a lot more sense, and is exactly my thoughts on what it means to live a Jewish life. On my side of the fence more Jews that not feel that just because of genetics and culture, they're in and they don't need anything else.
What I get now his how, not "because off" but rather "through" Christ, Christians achieve salvation.

father foos said...

Sank,

You bring up many thoughts. The Greek from whence we get the English word liturgy is Leitourgia and it relates to the work of a civic or religious minister. Thus, in the context of the Temple, the priest exercises a liturgy—the work of Temple worship, ceremony, etc. In the Hebrew and Christian concept of what the Reformed & Baptist camps tend to call the “priesthood of all believers”, i.e. “And you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation,” one sees a ministry of all the people of God exercising their priestly duties before God in worship. Thus, worship for Christians is understood to be a work of all the people of God.

And out of worship is to come the real kingdom life of the community of the faithful. Without worship, the community cannot live as it is supposed to because it has no connection with it’s source of power and life. So all works of charity, love of neighbor, service, etc., really must all flow out of the worship of God. Worship is foundational to God’s people. It’s always been that way, for it is the way in which we most obviously meet God and work out our relationship with Him.

I have a really hard time understanding how the Christian culture in America started, much less continued, to have this understanding of salvation that is so unbiblical. St. Paul says that we must continue to work out (present tense) our salvation—in fear and trembling. Salvation is always seen as a process in the Scriptures. It’s not that there isn’t a moment for many, for Israel, for the Church, etc., but the moment is not definitive. The baptismal rite in the BCP includes the following prayers. Note that the bold indicate a long view of salvation—a process

WE receive this Child (Person) into the congregation of Christ's flock; and do * sign him with the sign of the Cross, in token that hereafter he shall not be ashamed to confess the faith of Christ crucified, and manfully to fight under his banner, against sin, the world, and the devil; and to continue Christ's faithful soldier and servant unto his life's end. Amen.

SEEING now, dearly beloved brethren, that this Child (this Person) is regenerate, and grafted into the body of Christ's Church, let us give thanks unto Almighty God for these benefits; and with one accord make our prayers unto him, that this Child (this Person) may lead the rest of his life according to this beginning.

WE yield thee hearty thanks, most merciful Father, that it hath pleased thee to regenerate this Child (this thy Servant) with thy Holy Spirit, to receive him for thine own Child, and to incorporate him into thy holy Church. And humbly we beseech thee to grant, that he, being dead unto sin, may live unto righteousness, and being buried with Christ in his death, may also be partaker of his resurrection; so that finally, with the residue of thy holy Church, he may be an inheritor of thine everlasting kingdom; through Christ our Lord. Amen.


Regarding Noah, yes, there is work to do. Yet, to avoid the idea that we merit our salvation because of our work is a necessary point to refute both in the ancient Jewish religious system and the Christian system.

It is both because of Christ’s being the true Israel of God and through my joining of my life to His life—in death, burial and resurrection in baptism—that I participate in the salvation offered to me by Christ through His Church—His body. A continual participating in the life of Christ’s Church is my “remaining in Christ.” I still pray in the same pattern as Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, offering the appointed sacrifices; yet these sacrifices have been remade because Christ is the once for all sacrifice, so I plead his sacrifice in place of a bloody animal for a sin offering. I offer myself a living sacrifice instead of a bull as a whole burnt offering. I offer the bread and the wine of the eucharist instead of the peace offering—and I participate in the sacrificial meal of the body and blood of Christ—feasting in the new kingdom of God established by the Messiah.

Well, probably much more than you wanted to hear from me, but I just finished teaching a lesson on Jesus in the context of first century Palestine, and my brain is going all different directions.

Anyway, thanks for your comments. They’re appreciated.

Sank said...
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Sank said...

This is why I've become addicted to this blog thing. Different prespectives. It's always nice to find a perspective you're not always talking about. I'll be bookmarking this one and checking in to see whats new.

We left the sacrificial commandments behind with the destruction of the Temple and the change to Rabbinical Judaism. Somewhere, during the years right after 70AD and Diaspora, when the Mishna and the Talmud were being written (and I'm the very fringes of my knowledge at this point) Judaism changed to be more spiritual. In the temple years there wasn't much participation from the masses other than to go up to Jerusalem for the festivals, observance was for priests.
The Pharisees started thinking along the lines that all of us were responsible for upholding the law, and by extension, worshiping on our own. The leaders of the communities, the Rabbi’s were teachers whose job it was, and is, to teach the congregation how to interpret. With out the Temple, there couldn’t be sacrifices so it was no longer important.

Now, somewhere along the line in the early Church, the Pharisees developed a bad name, I’m not sure where that happened, but I think it’s interesting that each branch of Judaism that exists today would be is here becuase of their influence. The faith would have died with the Roman destruction of the Jerusalem. Instead it’s survived more challenges through history, and lives on today.

That’s more thinking than I’ve done in while and I’m losing focus. Anyway, great blog, interesting topic. I’m sure I’ll find a topic to post to again.

Evan (etruth) said...

Glad I still have email on my comments, else I might have missed your post. Thanks for dropping a line, and it's encouraging to hear your thoughts on the REC/APA merger.

Coming from a library science student, my understanding of the Reformed view is that it is a form of compatablism, that is, free will and God's sovereignty do exist, it's simply that someone who is lost in sin is a willing slave it, and until a sovereign work of grace affects us, we simply will not freely come unto Him.

As for "losing one's salvation," I believe the common concept of "eternal security" does indeed miss an important point, we would indeed fall, but it is God's grace that sanctifies us as well as justifies us. Therefore those who are truly redeemed will "endure to the end." From our perspective we see all the uncertainty and flux but from God's perspective it happens sovereignly within his will.