How do we receive grace or salvation? Soteriology or the doctrines of salvation, I have read about it and basically, yes even for the Roman Catholics, salvation is all about faith and all about receiving Christ as the personal savior and master. There maybe differences in the area of merit, sanctification and the role of the church but basically in justification and all that soteriological stuffs it is surprising to find out the unity of churches, even cults may I say, in the act of receiving Christ in one’s heart as the personal savior and establishing a relationship with God through Christ, through prayers.
Evangelist have this method of calling people in front—altar calls-- asking them to pray with them the prayer of repentance and the prayer of receiving Christ and then after prayers they are then assured that Christ entered their hearts and that from now on they are a new creation and all that blah, blah, blah. Is there salvation in there? I don’t know, only God can decide about these things. I find it a little awkward to assure people, after praying these formula prayers, that they are already saved. Not because I don’t believe that Christ can’t save, or that the formula prayer is ineffectual or non-performing. No, I have faith in Christ and in the prayer; it’s just that I can’t tell what’s inside a person’s heart to give that kind of assurance. I would feel awkward to tell them that, “If you prayed sincerely in tour heart that you received Christ, then I can assure you that you have now your very own room in heaven.” It’s difficult to do that. It’s Grace, God’s grace and only God can say who. We can only give assurance that God will do his part no matter how unsure we are of the human part. (I don’t know if I’m making any sense.)
I’m thinking of the Lord’s Supper or the Communion and how it can be a channel of grace and salvation. I have already told in this blog the story of a missionary about an illiterate native (or tribal people) who was touched by the missionary’s sermon about giving one’s self as an offering to the Lord and this one native stood up and literally sat on the offering plate to give himself to God. The story maybe funny but the significance of that act cannot be denied. The act was done in sincerity within the native’s understanding of giving one’s self. Will God deny the act and the gift because of its hilarity and non-conformity to established church practice? Funny, a man sitting on the offering plate giving himself to the Lord. How do we receive Christ? In faith? In a specific formula of prayers, repentance and all that stuff? I am reminded of the sinner in the temple who beats his chest and cried out to the Lord, “God I’m a sinner!”
How about the Lord’s Supper or the Communion?
The Roman Catholics believed in transubstantiation. They believed that the Holy Communion is literally the blood and the body of Christ—this is theology and not for the common Roman Catholic Church goers to question. But if one who thinks that he/she is receiving the body and the lordship of Christ in earnest and in faith, receiving Christ in prayer as he/she is receiving the communion isn’t he/she receiving grace and salvation too. If faith is the criteria, if that prayer is the criteria, why not? This is not a hypothetical question because there are millions of Catholics who receive their communion in earnest and in faith and in prayer receiving Christ and His Lordship, are they denied the gift of grace and salvation because they did not follow the Evangelical formula?
The history of theology tells us that symbols, icons, representations are primarily a tool of faith for the illiterate, a tool for sharing God’s message for people who cannot create a picture out of abstract and concept teachings of the church (or churches) on God, for the people whose faith is simple, whose understanding of the world is simple, unencumbered by abstractions, just like the native who gave himself as an offering to the Lord by sitting on the offering plate, just like people who receives Christ and His Lordship by the act of receiving his body and blood—literally through the bread and the wine.
Altar calls, prayers, and communions—they are mere channels of God’s grace. God’s grace is sufficient, God’s grace is efficient, this I believe with all my heart and who am I to place dogmas above it.
That is why I’m for open communion for in open communion the opportunity for salvation is there.