Friday, October 13, 2006

Saving Others

Take heed to yourself and to the doctrine. Continue in them, for in doing this you will save both yourself and those who hear you. 1 Tim. 4:16

In what way can it be said that we are capable of saving others? Many Christians would find the idea heretical. Only God can save! Yet, here we read St. Paul instructing Timothy on a means of saving others, as well as himself.

In this passage Paul is completing the thought that Timothy must always be on the guard to lead his life in keeping with the Gospel that he preaches. One cannot speak great words if he is not prepared to back them up with great actions. The Gospel, wonderful as it is, becomes a hollow gong if it cannot be seen in action in the lives of those who preach it. The Gospel is essentially about love, therefore it is essentially about others, not self.

However, it has been my observation that a great many Christians, including myself, have been led to think of the Gospel primarily in terms of self; that is, our salvation. We pray, fast, give, read our Bibles, and witness primarily with an eye towards increasing our own godliness and drawing nearer to God. I'm not saying that's bad. But I am saying that's not enough.

Love is not selfish. If the focus of our lives is on ourselves and our own interests then it is missing the goal. The goal is to become Christ-like in that we are looking out for others rather than ourselves. It is a self-emptying life, not a self-fulfilling one.

With all this in mind let us return to the passage. Paul tells Timothy to do two things: pay attention to himself, and pay attention to the teaching. In doing the first, Timothy is being instructed to ensure that he does indeed live a holy life worthy of imitation. In this way he will give credibility to the Gospel he preaches and others will be compelled to follow suit. In doing the second, Timothy is to ensure that his teaching is the same as the teaching, i.e. the teaching of the Gospel.

If Timothy remains faithful to do these things he will succeed at two other things: his own salvation, and the salvation of others. It is obvious in what sense he will save himself. Of course, it is more appropriate to see it as God saving him. But in what sense is he able to save others?

It may be proposed that he will save others in the fact that in hearing his Gospel they will repent and believe in Jesus and thus be saved. I agree. However, I think there's more to it than that. I think there is the very real notion here of Grace and merit.

Grace is what we receive from God. Merit is what is earned as a result of Grace. Merit is therefore Grace enacted. Grace, if not appropriated, is voided. Only when someone responds to that Grace in the obedience of faith is it profitable. In this way, one gains merit. The more one appropriates Grace, the more merit. Thus we indeed go from grace to grace and truly are saved by Grace. But it's the merit I want to look at.

The Catholic Church has long taught that the Saints had gained enough merit, not only for themselves, but also for others. This merit is applied through the communion of saints on behalf of those souls being purified in purgatory. Thus it is that the majority of us, when we die, will endure a time of purifying and God, in His mercy and love, will apply to us, not only our own merits but those of Christ and the saints. In this way we truly are joined together in one body.

So, if merit can be applied in such a way, could it not be applied even now? In fact, isn't this exactly what we find throughout salvation history? It is the lives of the Saints that overflow with Grace, not only after death, but even in this life. This Grace is manifest in prayers, in miracles, and in the forgiveness of sins. It is also manifest in service, sacrifice, and suffering. Many are converted to Christ through it. Their lives are touched and they are saved. So we see that we are able to save, not only ourselves, but others who hear us.

I realize this has gotten a bit wordy. Forgive me, please! But think- how can we save others? We can do so by paying attention to our own lives and to the teaching. By drawing near to God in holiness we will not only have the blessing of the nearness of His Presence, but we will also have the benifit of an overflowing Grace that is able to reach out and touch others, thus saving them. By giving constant attention to the teaching of the Church we will be able to give people right instruction in the way to come to God. So, in doing these things we will be able to save both ourselves and those who hear us.

One more point I want to make. The purpose of our holiness is not for ourselves. It is for others. We strive after holiness, not to be self-righteous, but to save others. Holiness is not an option. Sure it won't matter to us if we slack off and take a little longer to attain a certain level of holiness. But it will matter to others. It may be that some will be lost because we were careless about holiness. We can't afford such a thing.

So, my friends, pay careful attention to yourself and to the teaching. Persevere in these things. For in so doing you will save both yourself and those who hear you.

2 Comments:

Blogger Joni said...

I never looked at that verse like that. It really does make us stop and think more about how we are living our lives, doesn't it?

Thanks as always for your thoughts. They make me reevaluate my walk.

5:41 PM  
Blogger Hidden One said...

"Take heed to yourself and to the doctrine. Continue in them, for in doing this you will save both yourself and those who hear you. 1 Tim. 4:16"

Aye, and failing to heed it, even for a moment, can spell disaster.

"However, it has been my observation that a great many Christians, including myself, have been led to think of the Gospel primarily in terms of self; that is, our salvation. We pray, fast, give, read our Bibles, and witness primarily with an eye towards increasing our own godliness and drawing nearer to God. I'm not saying that's bad. But I am saying that's not enough."

I agree...changing your 'myself' to my 'myself'.

"One more point I want to make. The purpose of our holiness is not for ourselves. It is for others. We strive after holiness, not to be self-righteous, but to save others. Holiness is not an option. Sure it won't matter to us if we slack off and take a little longer to attain a certain level of holiness. But it will matter to others. It may be that some will be lost because we were careless about holiness. We can't afford such a thing."

No kidding. I don't think there are many Chrisitans who cannot look back at situations and to relationships where more holiness - that is, essentially spiritual maturity - would, or at least could, have made a huge positive difference in someone else's or one's own life.

Myself, I need not look far, but I hope with each passing day to put that farther and farther away.

Sincerely In Christ,
~Hidden One~

7:08 PM  

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