Lector: In the last post here, it was pointed out that if there is anything at all that we have to do to “get right with God,” even if it is simply “trusting Jesus,” then salvation would be by work and not grace as it would be a transaction between us and God. So how does one get saved apart from some sort of transaction?
Auctor: The only way for that to work would be if faith came after salvation. The faith one has would be faith that Christ has already saved them, in other words.
Lector: So then what does faith do for us if we’re already saved?
Auctor: Why it saves us, of course.
Lector: Ah, of course, it… wait, it does what? If we’re already saved how do we get saved again?
Auctor: Because “salvation” isn’t always the same thing as salvation. The same word can mean different things.
Lector: So “salvation” means two different things then?
Auctor: Actually it can mean many more than just two things, but for what we’re discussing here it actually refers to three different things.
Lector: Do tell.
Auctor: Well, to begin with, there is ontological salvation. This is the salvation I already referred to, the salvation that God gives us even before we begin to have any faith. This salvation happened to all of us in Christ apart from anything we have done or will do. When Christ died for our sins, all died, and when He rose, all rose, and we have all been saved, ontologically speaking, in Him, because He died for our sins, was entombed, and was roused the third day.
Lector: That’s a pretty bold statement.
Auctor: It is.
Lector: How do you justify such a claim?
Auctor: It’s not my intention to even try to do so right now, that would too big a tangent for this discussion. For now it’s enough to remember that if God doesn’t save us apart from anything we do then salvation is a transaction.
Lector: Okay. So what about faith?
Auctor: That applies to the second sort (or stage) of salvation, what I refer to as noological salvation. While ontological salvation is (among other things) the promise of the resurrection of the dead at some point in the future, noological salvation is freedom from the power of sin by being given knowledge of our ontological salvation and truly believing it. Faith, in other words. When someone comes to realize that they are already united to God through Christ and that there is nothing they have to do to please God or earn His forgiveness they are freed from the power of sin, which is the law or religion.
Lector: Ah, I see. But you mentioned three different types of salvation. What’s the third one?
Auctor: That would be what I refer to as eschatological salvation, the physical experience of salvation which occurs at our resurrection and/or vivification, when the mortal puts on immortality and we can finally enjoy the full salvation that we had all along in Christ.
Lector: Interesting. So we’ve been saved, we’re being saved, and we will be saved, all at the same time.
Auctor: That’s one way to put it. As long as we remember that there is nothing that we ourselves do to gain any of these salvations.
Lector: But what about faith? If we have to have faith to have what you called noological salvation then isn’t that still a transaction?
Auctor: Not if the faith is given to us by God. Remember, we’re saved by grace through faith, and that is not of ourselves but is a gift from God. The only way that it can be a gift is if God gives us the faith. If we have to build that salvific faith up then it would be a work.
Lector: Even if it’s just the amount of a mustard seed?
Auctor: Even that would still be a work. We don’t have to worry, though. Only God can give us the faith that is necessary for the freedom that is noological salvation; we couldn’t possibly muster it up on our own anyway.