Scripture Reading Philippians 2: 12
Rev. Fr. Jude Sagboje
alvation is a fundamental and central concept in our Christian faith. To be saved is to be redeemed. Again, we could ask, what does it mean to be redeemed? To be redeemed is to be set free from anything that keeps us in bondage.
The Book of Exodus 12-16 contains the account of God’s deliverance of the people of Israel from their bondage in Egypt. In that event, they experienced God as their Saviour when they were set free from slavery. Afterwards, they would continue to celebrate that event in their history and to call on God to save them from all that threatens them-their enemies, sicknesses, oppressions, all kinds of evils and afflictions. They learned to refer to God as their deliverer, their refuge, their strength, their rock, their stronghold etc.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church affirms that “By his death, (Jesus, the Son of God) has conquered death, and so opened the possibility of salvation to all men and women.” (CCC 1019) When we say that we are saved, we are saying in essence that salvation has been made possible for us in Christ.
In the text of St. Paul’s Letter to Titus (3:5-7) we learn clearly that salvation is not by any work of righteousness that we have done. It is a gift. [The story of the thief on the cross is an apt demonstration of salvation as a free gift.] But as with every free gift, there must be a free response. Titus 3: 5 says “he saved us” and 1 Cor 1:18 speaks of “us who are being saved”. By these expressions, we understand salvation not only in the past but also in the present leading to the future.
While salvation has been made possible in Christ Jesus, we have a role in the work of salvation. That role is to respond lovingly to what God had done for us in Christ Jesus. As one of the Fathers of the Church is reported to have said “The God who created us without us will not save us without us”. It is against this background that St Paul encourages us: “….work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, enabling you both to will and to work for the good of his good pleasure” Philippians 2:12.,
How do we work out our salvation with fear and trembling? We would work out our salvation by not being slothful, negligent and without taking God’s grace for granted.
In reply to a question “Lord, will only a few be saved?” Jesus exhorts us to strive to enter by the narrow gate Read Luke 13:22-27 and Matt 7:21-23. What does it mean to strive? Why do we have to strive? When St Paul encourages us to work out our salvation, he was only reiterating what Jesus already told us to do: to strive. To strive is to make great effort. To strive against is to fight vigorously against. In this case, against the Evil one who would throw many obstacles on our path to make the road narrow and rough and the journey difficult. St. Paul calls it a good fight (1 Tim 6:11- 17), requiring the armour of God, the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation and the sword of the spirit which is the word of God against the wiles of the devil, Ephesians 6:10-17.
To be saved, it is not enough to eat and drink with Jesus or to say ‘Lord, Lord’ or be in his company by simply coming to Church. It is by living a life in and through Jesus in the power of his spirit living in us in such a way that we are able to say like St. Paul “…it is no longer I who lives but it is Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave himself for me.” Gal. 2:20