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notre dame montreal

What is Salvation ?


In what way does Jesus save us ?

Christians have seen many ways in which this occurs.
Jesus dies a death as a substitute or a sacrifice instead of us. This is the Old Testament idea of the scapegoat which takes our punishment instead of us
Jesus is a ransom and reconciliation, Jesus pays th price which is on our heads , 
He is an example for us to follow, a pattern to enable us to live better lives.

The Swedish Lutheran theologian Gustav Aulem published an article in German in 1930 in which he rehabilitated the ‘Classic’ or ‘Christus Victor’ approach to the atonement. He describes what was the ruling theory of the atonement for the first thousand years of Christian history. At its heart is the idea of Jesus fighting against and triumphing over the powers of evil in the world, there are the tyrants under which humankind is held in bondage and so in Jesus God reconciles the world to himself.

There is a lot of language which takes up this theme in the New Testament. And so the Apostle Paul says

  • Jesus "destroyed death" (2 Timothy 1:10)
  • our "last enemy" (1 Corinthians 15:26)
  • He "disarmed the powers and authorities, and made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross" (Colossians 2:15)
  • Jesus "tasted death for every one," and "through death he rendered powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil" (Hebrews 2:9,14)
In the Apostles' Creed we say : 
"Jesus suffered under Pontius Pilate, he was crucified, died, and was buried. He descended into hell. The third day he rose again from the dead." Of course Jesus did not descend into hell (Ghenna which was the rubbish dump outside Jerusalem) he descended to Sheol the place of the dead). None of us really knows what is meant by this ancient phrase but those who wrote it influenced by passages from the scriptures (1 Petr 3 : 18-20, 1 Peter 4:6, ) which spoke of Jesus preaching to the spirits in prison. (See also John 5:25, Rev 5:13, Philippians 2:9-11)

Opinions on all of this have varied over the centuries but what I believe we can say is that the scriptures are telling us that there was no limit to the ability of Jesus to save. 
In Philippians we read 
‘every knee shall bow in heaven, and on earth and under the earth (phil 2:10)

Origen one of the early great theologians of the church took this to mean the idea of the final and ultimate triumph of Christ, that Satan himself would submit to the love and power of God in Jesus Christ

In Colossians we read that God in Christ will 
"reconcile to himself all things, having made peace through the blood of his cross, whether things on earth or things in heaven" (Colossians 1:20). 

In Ephesians 1:10 we read 
He will "sum up" or "bring together" "all things in heaven and on earth" 

I say this just to make the point clear that scriptures speaks of Jesus saving in a very big way and Easter is the time when it happens. It is at Easter in the death and resurrection of Jesus that the ‘Lord Saves’, and we are a part of the great salvation. There are those for whom Easter salvation is way too small. They see resurrection as a small elite escaping from a doomed world in a moment of rapture for the lucky ones. This is a small minded view of salvation seeks to restrict the grace of God in a way that does violence to the words of scripture which we have just read. This is bumper sticker theology and we need to refute it. .

That is why Easter Sunday speaks so powerfully to a world which sometimes seems in chaos. No matter what powers are waged against there is a power at work in our world which is the power of God to save, therefore we will not fear.