Who Shall Be Saved?

In the face of all the divisions we face in the Church, and as Christians, St. Paul reminds us — on this first Sunday of Lent — that “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” (Romans 10:13).

Who is “everyone?” Well, “if you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”

Who does that? Who makes that confession and shares that belief?

Pope Benedict, the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew; Archbishop Rowan Williams; Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori; Archbishop Peter Akinola; Bishop Gene Robinson; Bishop Robert Duncan; members of Forward in Faith; members of Integrity; lay persons, bishops, priests, deacons from around the world.

So…are we really so divided? Do we not really acknowledge one Lord, one Faith, one Baptism, one God and Father of us all? Shame on us for not standing together around that message. Shame on us for letting secondary issues cloud that witness. Please, God, help us resolve our petty differences…

That We All May Be One!

15 Responses to “Who Shall Be Saved?”

  1. Alex Milner Says:

    Dear Bishop Epting,

    How would a passage like this fit your analysis? (Matt 7:15-23)

    “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.

    “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’

    It seems to me that there is a very clear connection between outward confession of Jesus’ Lordship and changed conduct. The conduct is not secondary, but an outworking of a genuine confession of faith in the true Jesus. Put in reverse, how can someone claim to submit to Jesus’ Lordship whilst openly and publicly rejecting what he says?

    Jesus (in Matthew’s Gospel) seems really concerned to point out that there are people who make ‘all the right sounds’ and have the appearance of following Jesus, but who really aren’t.

  2. ecubishop Says:

    Alex:

    And so, who — in the current controversies — demonstrate the fruits of the Holy Spirit of which St. Paul speaks in Galatians 5 –” love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. There is no law against such things.” ?

  3. Alex Milner Says:

    Dear Bishop Epting,

    Galatians 5 is a wonderful passage.

    Notice how St Paul is comparing two groups of people in that passage: those who live by the Spirit by contrast to those who give in to the desires of the sinful nature (v16). And these are the descriptions of each group: (vv 19-24)

    “The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.

    But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires.”

    And notice how the two groups (as broad descriptions) do not overlap: (vv16-17) “So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want. ”

    If I was to try to answer your question, as regards the current situation in the US, I’d start around the following:

    – followers of Jesus won’t (consistently and unrepentantly) promote or condone sexual immorality or impurity (v19) – ie they will exercise (& promote) faithfulness and self-control, vv22-23)

    – followers of Jesus will be peacemakers (v22 – ie the opposite of “dissensions, factions and envy”, v20)

    – followers of Jesus will love their enemies (v22 – ie the opposite of “hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage”, v20)

    To all this, I’d want to add that followers of Jesus will love the truth and act with integrity. I hope this gives you a glimpse of my thinking – I am not sure that ‘naming names’ is all that helpful (or wise!).

    But can I take issue with another of the points you made – that the current issues are “secondary” and “petty”. I don’t believe this approach mirrors how St Paul would think about the current situation. Remember how much of the Letter to the Galatians deals with “minor”, “petty” issues like circumcision and abiding by the OT law. And yet this is what St Paul sees is at stake:

    “I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned! As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let him be eternally condemned!” (1:6-8)

    With respect, shame on us for not valuing the purity and importance of the Gospel the way St Paul did.

  4. ecubishop Says:

    I have no disagreement with your definitions of the “followers of Jesus” above. My guess is that Gene Robinson wouldn’t either.

    However, I do not believe that the “gospel” St. Paul valued and proclaimed had much to do with “purity.” It had everything to do with all of us — saint and sinner alike — being utterly dependent upon the love and mercy of God for eternal life.

  5. Alex Milner Says:

    Dear Bishop Epting,

    If homosexual practice is sinful – as St Paul taught – then it is difficult to understand how anyone advocating such practices is “living by the Spirit”. And this is the overwhelming mind of the Communion, expressed in the Lambeth 1.10 resolution.

    I think you confuse my use of the word “purity” – of course I agree that the Gospel is a message for sinners (like us, no less!) – but I believe St Paul (in Galatians) is being really careful to guard the integrity of the Gospel and ensure that it is not added to or watered down. And what he’s complaining about (circumcision and abiding by the OT law) might seem petty or minor to our way of thinking – but are the exact opposite for St Paul.

    Ultimately, the divisions with the TEC seem so large that it is difficult to accept that differing groups are in fact following the same Jesus.

    And I suspect that this is the logical fault in you application of Rom 10:13 -if people are worshipping a false Jesus then they are idolators and still under God’s judgment (cf Rev 22:15 et al).

  6. ecubishop Says:

    I can assure you that no one in the Episcopal Church is worshipping “a false Jesus.”

  7. Alex Milner Says:

    Dear Bishop Epting,

    But think about the extent of the differences:

    – one group asserts that Jesus condones homosexual practices (to varying degrees); the other asserts that Jesus condemns homosexual practice.

    – one group asserts that Jesus taught that he is the way the truth and the life and that no-one comes to the father except through him; the other group asserts that Jesus is “a” way, “a” truth and “a” life such that salvation might be found elsewhere.

    – one group asserts that Jesus loves us and requires us to repent; the other group focuses on Jesus’ love but neglects repentance.

    – one group asserts the authority of Scripture (Jesus words); the other group asserts the authority of the church to ‘correct’ Scripture.

    Now these are all generalisations – but the point remains: What is at issue here is who Jesus is.

  8. ecubishop Says:

    My friend: Your comments reveal how very little you know about the Episcopal Church. The only thing we disagree about is your first point. And, even then no one says Jesus condones homosexual practice. Only that he — quite obviously — was silent about it.

  9. Alex Milner Says:

    Dear Bishop Epting,

    But isn’t my argument (albeit imperfectly put!) the same as that of Bishops MacPherson and Duncan in their presentation to the Primates meeting – ie the comments that parts of the TEC had started a ‘new faith’.

    I am yet to see that argument actually refuted.

    I note you agree with my first example.

    The second example is drawn from recent comments by the PB: “I think Jesus as way – that’s certainly what it means to be on a spiritual journey. It means to be in search of relationship with God. We understand Jesus as truth in the sense of being the wholeness of human expression. What does it mean to be wholly and fully and completely a human being? Jesus as life, again, an example of abundant life. We understand him as bringer of abundant life but also as exemplar. What does it mean to be both fully human and fully divine? Here we have the evidence in human form. So I’m impatient with the narrow understanding, but certainly welcoming of the broader understanding… But not in the narrow sense, that people can only come to relationship with God through consciously believing in Jesus.”

    The third example, again comes from comments by the PB (as reported by USA Today): “She sees two strands of faith: One is “most concerned with atonement, that Jesus died for our sins and our most important task is to repent.” But the other is “the more gracious strand,” says the bishop who dresses like a sunrise.”

    The fourth example is my own (summary) description of two groups which have a fundamentally different understanding of Scripture as “the rule and ultimate standard of faith”.

  10. ecubishop Says:

    Alex:

    This will be my last comment on this particular posting. The teaching of the Episcopal Church is called its “doctrine, discipline, and worship.” Its content is
    summarized in the Cathechism, the Consititution and Canons, and the liturgy of the 1979 Book of Common Prayer, not in the statements of any individual — even the Presiding Bishop (or her Deputy for Ecumenical and Interfaith Relations!).

  11. My Two Cents Says:

    Alex,

    Thank you for a wonderfully cogent argument. You are 100% correct in your analysis and argument.

    Bishop – Alex, speaks the truth.

  12. rwkachur Says:

    I had a similar thought to +Epting in listening to the reading in Romans last Sunday. However, I raise a second issue. There is a fundamental difference between trusting in the work of a risen Christ for our salvation and being an ordained minister in the church. The apostles had a high standard for being a “teacher” in the church, a standard we have slowly chipped away at, divorce being one example. I know very Godly men who have refused to put themselves forward for examination for ordination because they don’t meet the standard set out in Scripture. They, however, continue to serve in a multitude of ways. Trusting in God for your salvation does not mean that all other positions in the church are open to you.

    Lambeth 1998 was very clear about the teaching of the Anglican Communion and bishops in the Episcopal Church has willfully ignored that teaching.

  13. Alex Milner Says:

    Dear Bishop Epting,

    Thank you for corresponding – much appreciated.

    Kind regards
    Alex

  14. toujoursdan Says:

    If homosexual practice is sinful – as St Paul taught – then it is difficult to understand how anyone advocating such practices is “living by the Spirit”.

    The question is whether St Paul taught that homosexual practise in all cases and conditions is sinful, or if he taught that same sex lusts (rather than love) in the context of pagan idolatry (see Romans 1,23) was a consequence of turning away from God and whether it is commentary on the excesses of Roman paganism.

    Faithful Biblical scholars in every mainstream denomination are split on this.

  15. toujoursdan Says:

    Lambeth 1998 was very clear about the teaching of the Anglican Communion and bishops in the Episcopal Church has willfully ignored that teaching.

    Actually Lambeth Conferences (until 1998 evidently) never issued “teachings” that had to be obeyed as conditional for being part of the Anglican Communions. They issued resolutions that reflected the mind of the bishop in conference at the time. Many resolutions, including those condemning birth control, divorce and remarriage (even for the innocent party in infidelity), interracial marriage and receiving communion before Confirmation have been either reversed or ignored.

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