As could be expected, this central theme of Christianity – salvation – plays out throughout Saint Paul’s letters. Almost every one of his letters makes some reference to the mystery and gift of salvation. What, then, does Saint Paul say about salvation? What is his understanding of it? First of all, Saint Paul sees salvation as being a gift which is given to us from a loving God, “God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). Christ intends this gift of salvation for all who are willing to accept it, “he died for all, so that those who live might live no longer for themselves, but for him who died and was raised for them” (2 Corinthians 5:15).
We accept this gift of salvation in Jesus Christ through baptism. Baptism is the gateway for all the sacraments, removes original sin, gives us sanctifying grace and initiates us into the Church and makes us sons and daughters of God. Baptism is also a participation in Christ’s own death and resurrection, “we have been buried with him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead…we too might walk in newness of life” (Romans 6:4). In baptism we are given a share in the salvific act of Christ’s death and resurrection.
Baptism is, however, not the end of the journey to salvation, but the beginning. Over the course of our lives we strive to live out our baptismal promises through faith. Saint Paul says that this life of faith, which begins in baptism, is what guides us into salvation and we are “justified by faith in Christ” (Galatians 2:16). It is something that we need to strive for over the years, heeding Saint Paul’s call to “work out your salvation in fear and trembling” (Philippians 2:12).
Saint Paul sums up the path to salvation in his Letter to the Romans, “if you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9). Over these next few days of Holy Week, we will be doing just that, confessing with the lips of the Church that we believe that Jesus is Lord and that He has been raised from the dead. We will, through the liturgical actions of the Church, give thanks to God for the gift of our salvation and for Christ who is our “righteousness and sanctification and redemption” (1 Corinthians 1:30).