Many years ago I was cruising through Paul’s first letter to the church in Corinth when I was struck by an odd sentence. 1 Corinthians 1:18 reads, “For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” It would be easy to skim over this and assume that Paul was taking about unbelievers who are coming to the church and being saved. However, Paul uses the pronoun “us.” He is including himself and other believers in this “being saved.” Also odd is that this is not a past event, for Paul and the other believers this is an ongoing action occurring in the present. This simple realization has forever shaped my idea of salvation.
Contemporary Christians often talk about how a person “was saved” as they would about someone who “was married.” Salvation is a singular event which happened in the past for anyone who is a Christian. When we talk about being saved this way we may be missing the mark and marriage supplies an apt example of this.
I am not married, but I think married couples would agree that staying together is a matter of continual recommitment to the vows once made. In essence you are marrying over and over again with every self-sacrificial act and display of love. This doesn’t deny the once and for all aspect of the marriage ceremony, it just realizes that marriage is simultaneously a work in progress, for a marriage can exist in title only.
This is the sense in which Paul describes us as being saved. It is a continual recommitment to the surrender we made to Christ in the beginning. I sense that for many Christians salvation is a single action. Afterwards one must simply maintain a good life until death.
This misses the truth that we are in a continual process of salvation. While our selves belong to God, areas of our life are still in rebellion. Christ is like a general who conquers a country and then sets about restoring order. Many are my faults and habitual sins which I am still waiting to be liberated from by my Savior. You might say that at salvation Christ’s kingdom invades our life. Next comes the salvation of planting his flag at the top every hill in the land. Resistance is fierce, but he will never be driven out of the country. In the same way that we were saved, we will continue to be saved. God’s strong grace, through faith in action will accomplish his desired end.
Lastly, this verse carries a hope with it because in a sense we are not saved until the process is complete. Only when we die will God’s kingdom be established across the complete landscape of our lives. All rebellion will be crushed and the inhabitants will follow the true king of their own free will and love. The marriage will be consummated as the last barrier of sin between God and us is stripped away. It is a truth that is almost worth dying for (actually it is).