For by grace you have been saved through faith.
I believe that we are saved by faith in Christ and nothing else.
At first glance, this concept seems both uniquely Christian and entirely spiritual. But the more I think about it, the more normal-every-day-life-ish it becomes.
For example, just over 21 years ago I became married to my wife. (I’m throwing the number of years in there so that I know that she knows that I know. It’s a husband thing.)
If you ask me how I became married to her I could tell you all about the wedding we planned and the reception where I tried but failed to get any cake. I remember signing some document and something about vows (but they were all in Japanese, so I have no idea what I agreed to).
And then, all of a sudden, we were married.
As a Christian couple, we believe that means we have been joined together into one creature and nothing but death or infidelity can legitimately separate us. And that all happened just because of a signature and a ceremony?
I used to think so. But the older I get, the less I think so.
So, what made us married? What exactly was it that took us from being not-married and an instant later moved us into a state of married?
By now you may see where I’m going with this.
Yes, there was a ceremony. Yes, there was a legal notification to the state (mostly for tax purposes, no?). Yes, there was the pronouncement of the pastor that we were “now husband and wife”. But none of those made the difference.
The more I think about it, the more I am convinced that what made us married was our faith. We met, we dated, we fell in love, we looked at our future together and apart, we prayed, we knew, we committed, we planned. And then when the moment came, we believed that we were married - and we were. And every day, every moment since that day over 21 years ago (I still know the number!) we have continued to believe that we are married - and we are.*
But what if we somehow stopped believing we’re married? Would our union no longer exist?
No. It’s still there, because it's no longer dependent on our belief. Our faith gave it birth, but it immediately become an entity all its own. In short, it exists.
Now I can bring it back to Christ, and maybe it will make a little more sense.
Christ has asked each one of us to enter into a relationship with Him.
If we have the ceremony (baptism), that is a good step.
If we sign the documents (join a church), we are moving in the right direction.
If we profess publically that we intend to live in relationship with Him, we are wise.
But to make it fully real we have to believe that it’s real, and act like it’s real, and fully experience that realness in our lives.
And when we do, in an instant and for eternity, we have gone from being not-saved to saved.
* - It's important to note that I am consciously oversimplifying here. Although I am mentioning only one, in both marriage and salvation there are two distinct actors - us and God. We can have all the faith in the world, but if God doesn't do His part, nothing will come of it. To keep it fairly simple, I think it's safe to say the following statements are equally true.
- I am saved (and married) because of what God has done for me.
- I am saved (and married) because of my faith that makes it real - I mean real as opposed to potential.