This is the Nineteenth and last blog in this series exploring ideas about and images of salvation. The first blog is Images of Salvation and the previous blog Images of Salvation (XVIII).
The Church in its long history has offered many images of salvation – the teachings are rich and varied, a veritable treasury of knowledge to help us understand and enter into God’s salvation. Unfortunately, sometimes Christians themselves engage in theological reductionism and limit ideas of salvation to one theme (this is done with other ideas as well, such as an understanding of baptism). Andrew Sopko notes:
“… the mystery of redemption itself has gradually been reduced to a system of morality, or more properly, ‘appropriate behavior’ regulated by legalism.” (FOR A CULTURE OF CO-SUFFERING LOVE, p 16)
We have seen though that baptism is a river of salvation in which we are washed and cleansed by its many currents (see The Baptism of Regeneration). Baptism accomplishes many things – the many things necessary for the restoration and salvation of a human being. Among the benefits of baptism are
Renewal, the remission of sins, healing, regeneration,
redemption, incorruption, sanctification, illumination,
the final destruction of demons, purification, adoption,
the loosing of bonds, a new birth, transformation,
clothed upon with the new man, a partaker of Christ’s resurrection,
numbered with the first-born whose names are written in heaven.
We see in the blessings and benefits of baptism a wealth of images, experiences and understanding. We find in Christian the riches and depth of the experience of salvation. St. Leo the Great (d. 461AD) sums it up this way:
“Our Saviour, dearly beloved, is born today; rejoice! For it is not fitting that we give any place to sadness when Life is born, the Life which, consuming the fear of death, has filled us with joy because of the eternity He promises. No one is excluded from this gladness. One reason for joy is common to all, since Our Lord, the destroyer of sin and death, as he found no one free from sin, came to deliver us all. The saint is to exult, for he is nearing his palm. The sinner is to rejoice, for he is invited to forgiveness. The pagan is to take courage, for he is called to life…
… And so, dearly beloved, we are to give thanks to God the Father, through His Son, in the Holy Spirit, to Him who, in the abundant mercy with which He has loved us, has had pity on us, and ‘when we were dead in our sins, has brought us to life together with Christ’, so that we may be in Him a new creature, a new work. Let us, then, take off the old man with his works, and become partakers in the generation of Christ, renouncing the works of the flesh. O Christian, realize your dignity: you are associated with the divine nature, do not turn back to your past base condition by a degenerate way of life. Remember that you have been rescued from the power of darkness, you have been transported into the light and the kingdom of God. By the sacrament of Baptism, you have been made the temple of the Holy Spirit. Do not make such a guest take flight by perverse actions nor submit yourself again to the devil’s slavery, for you have been redeemed by the blood of Christ, for He will judge you in truth, He who has redeemed you in mercy, He who lives and reigns with the Father and the Holy Spirit for ever and ever. Amen.” (THE SPIRITUALITY OF THE NEW TESTAMENT & THE FATHERS by Louis Bouyer, p 530)