Friday, September 23, 2011

Was I saved then?

     When a person is confronted with the fact that false doctrine has been part of what has been embraced and believed and practiced it can cause fears to arise. A person can begin to ask: “Was I saved then?”

     Other related questions also can arise in the person’s heart.

     St. Paul answers these questions with the comfort of the Gospel. He says of himself:

     And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who hath enabled me, for that he counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry; Who was before a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and injurious: but I obtained mercy, because I did it ignorantly in unbelief. And the grace of our Lord was exceeding abundant with faith and love which is in Christ Jesus. This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief. Howbeit for this cause I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might shew forth all longsuffering, for a pattern to them which should hereafter believe on him to life everlasting. (1 Timothy 1:12-16)

     Here the apostle speaks openly and honestly about his condition before the Lord Jesus appeared to him and called him to repentance and faith. Clearly, even though he had been committed in what he believed, fervently acting in accord with the faith that he believed, he was outside of the Holy Communion of Christ and His Church. He was a blasphemer and a persecutor. He was actually persecuting and injuring and attempting to destroy the Church of Christ.

     But he did these things ignorantly. Did this excuse him? Not in any way. Nevertheless, God continues to call to repentance those who are in ignorance. The Gospel is the call to repent of such damning ignorance and to be converted to the true faith. This call extends to one and all. The Gospel is freely proclaimed by Christ in His Church. His desire is to save sinners from their sinful ways.

     Thus St. Paul says that he was shown mercy and obtained mercy. God’s mercy is an established fact. God sent His Son to the world to save the world. Christ accomplished this salvation for all the world. God declared Christ’s sacrificial suffering and death to be sufficient payment to redeem all of mankind from the wages of their sin. He declared all the world to be justified in Christ. But the world remains in ignorance apart from the preaching and receiving of the pure Gospel. Any gospel other than the pure Gospel leaves people ignorant of God’s mercy. They remain outside of God’s kingdom of grace.

     This is why the Scriptures continually condemn the false prophets and preachers. This why the Scriptures warn against false doctrine of every kind. This is why the truth is proclaimed as whole and intact. This is why error is condemned and those who embrace it are called to be turned from it to the truth. The warning of how a little leaven leaventh the entire loaf is repeatedly set forth so as to call people to embrace the pure Gospel.

     So what of the question that arises concerning the past? The past is that from which we are being called to be separated. We are called to hear the Gospel now. We are called to believe the Gospel now. We are called to live in the freedom of the Gospel now.

     In the salvation that the Gospel proclaims we are set free from all of the errors of the past.

     We then, as workers together with him, beseech you also that ye receive not the grace of God in vain. (For he saith, I have heard thee in a time accepted, and in the day of salvation have I succoured thee: behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.) (2 Corinthians 6:1-2)

     The past has already been taken into account through the Lord’s suffering and death as our Redeemer. Each and every day is a new day for those who receive the salvation that He purchased for us. He died for all. He established His Church on earth so that this marvelous message would be proclaimed for all the world to hear and believe.

     We are not to trouble ourselves when we discover that we have been in error. Rather, we are called to receive the Lord’s repentance, to be turned from the bondage of our errors to live in the truth that sets us free. We cannot change our past actions and sinful ways. But in Christ, these are washed away in the flood of holy Baptism and we are conjoined in Christ in His body to partake of the ongoing renewal of His everlasting Communion. This is where He calls our hearts to be turned.

     When we truly hear this and believe this the regrets of the past are turned to the everlasting peace and joy that are in Christ Jesus the Lord. Our regrets become continual participation in the feast of Thanksgiving at the Lord’s Table which He has prepared for us. This is not something to fear but something to embrace with open hearts and arms. To this we may run with jubilant hearts. To this we may confess with all of our heart, mind, soul, and strength. To this we may give testimony to all who will hear it. Then in union with St. Paul and with all the saints of all time we can jubilantly say, “I acted in ignorance, but I have obtained mercy!”

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