Heaven's gate photo by Moyan Brenn/Flickr

Salvation as defined by the Eastern Orthodox Church

By Nicholas Damascus

For 2000 years, the teaching and practice of salvation for Eastern Orthodox Christians is to become more like Christ, a process whereby a sinner is changed into the “likeness” of God by God’s grace and mercy.  God said, “Let Us make man in Our image [love], according to Our likeness [holiness, righteousness],” (Gen1:26). Christ came into the creation to free us from death and sin and to reveal to all of mankind Who the Father is.  “God is love,” (1 John 4:8).

 Salvation, as defined among many evangelical Christians, is a gift whereby one is automatically saved by association and declaration that Jesus Christ is my Lord and Savior.  However, for the Eastern Orthodox Christians, declaration is only the first part of the salvific journey.  They know that saving faith is more than mere belief.  In James 2:19 it reads, “You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe—and tremble!,” and they are not saved.

The most important part of the journey of becoming an Orthodox Christian is what is referred to as theosis. This process is not a one-stop-shop or a one incident conversion, but a lifetime of evolution and transformation of a “life in Christ.”

Our journey is not so much about the destination, but more importantly  becoming like Christ as we are “partakers of the divine nature of God,” (2 Peter 1:4) through His grace and mercy.  We become by grace or His divine energies, what God is by nature, “children of God” (John 1:12), and we “…are being transformed into the same image,” (2 Cor 3:18) of God Who is Love.

It is said in Romans 12:2, “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.”  The New Testament was written in ancient Greek, and “mind” here means heart or nous in the Greek.  It is the  condition of the heart that that enables us to receive all that God wants to give us.

Our salvation will be determined at the Final Judgment.  There are those who will be saved who are the sheep and those that will not be saved who are the goats, and here is the punch line.  Both goats and sheep will be surprised as to who will be saved” (Matthew 25:31-46). 

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