For those who love Me, My love is like light and warmth, but to those who hate Me and close their eyes against My life, My love is like a consuming fire.
My name is Steve Robinson and many of you know me from my podcast, “Our Life in Christ”. For over ten years I’ve been looking for a real succinct illustration of the difference between Protestant view of salvation and the Orthodox view of salvation.
This is the gospel in chairs.
The Protestant view of salvation goes something like this.
In the beginning, God created man, and man had perfect fellowship with God, but then in the garden man sinned and he turned away from God. Because God is so holy and righteous, He cannot look upon man any longer, because man is sinful. No matter what man does, no matter how hard man tries, no matter how righteous man is after he has sinned, God still cannot look upon his righteousness and holiness, because man is still sinful. No amount of good works can repay God for the offence that man has given Him. So man is in a constant state of separation from God. But God in His love for man, sends his son Jesus Christ, who becomes man and lives as we should have lived, in perfect communion and in sinlessness before God. Then at the end of His life, Jesus Christ is crucified. When He is crucified, God does the unthinkable. He lays all of the sin of a human race on his Son. When He does that, because He is holy and righteous, he turns his back on His own Son. The Son experiences the fullness of the wrath of God against us, in our stead. Now we sinners, if we believe that Jesus Christ has done this, if we believe that Jesus Christ has died for our sins, we too, can now have this perfect fellowship with God once again. Because when God looks at us sinners, He no longer sees us, and He no longer sees our sins, He sees Jesus Christ and His blood. We are covered in the blood of the Lamb. We are, as Martin Luther said, “Snow covered dung”. Or as RC Sproul put it, “Jesus Christ is now our asbestos suit against the white-hot wrath of God against sinners”. But, if the human being who is sinful does not believe in Jesus Christ and His righteousness, and accept the righteousness of Christ in his stead, then God cannot look upon him. In the end, the sinner will be cast into hell, in eternal separation from God, suffering the full punishment that he deserves in his sins, because he has not accepted the sacrifice of Christ. So in a nutshell that’s the Protestant view of salvation.
The Orthodox view of salvation begins much the same way.
In the beginning God creates man in His image, and in perfect communion with Him, and then in the garden, man sins. In his sin, man subjects all creation and himself to futility, corruption, and death. But God, because God is life, and because His love can not bare to see his creation subjected to futility and death. So God becomes man.
When the woman in her brokenness and her corruption goes from relationship to relationship seeking and thirsting after true love, God sits down beside her at the well and He says, “ I am the water of life. I love you.”
When the man uses his fellow-countrymen for career and for money, and is ostracized and alienated from his own countrymen, an outcast from his own people, God says, “Come down from the tree. I will eat with you”
When the woman is caught in adultery and is cast before God, God says, “I do not condemn you. Go your way, sin no more”.
When the man experiences the corruption of the creation, the futility of random illness, the death of innocence, and the despair of loneliness, God says, “Take up your pallet and walk”. God says, “Tabitha arise!” God says, “Go in peace”.
When man, in fear, and cowardice, and envy, and jealousy, and greed, and political ambition take God and betray Him, and spit on Him, and beat Him, and crucify him, God says, “I forgive you”.
When man experiences the final separation and utter dissolution and separation from God and dies, God says, “Love is stronger than death, even though you make your bed in Sheol, l am there”.
And God dies.
But God says, “I am life, and in the power of my life, and the power of my resurrection, all will be raised with me”. And now there is no place where God is not. There’s no place to escape from the love of God. There is no place that we can hide from God’s love for us, that flows from his heart, like a river of fire. God says, “For those who love me, my love is like light and warmth, but to those who hate me and close their eyes against my life, my love is like a consuming fire”. So that’s the Orthodox view of salvation, in a nutshell, it’s not perfect, but that’s how we view the love of God.
In our paschal hymn we sing, “Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death by death, and to those in the tombs bestowing life”. That’s the core of the gospel of our salvation.